Planets on Rise
Butler Eagle
Written by:
June 12, 2013
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Mars sophomore Noah Hudac was one of several underclassmen who helped the Planets’ boys tennis team reach the state quarterfinals this spring.

ADAMS TWP — A youth-laden roster often spells doom for a high school sports team.

That wasn’t the case for the Mars boys tennis squad this spring.

The Planets’ top seven players included one junior, two sophomores and four freshmen. That group helped Mars place second in the WPIAL Class AA field and qualify for the PIAA tournament where the Planets swept District 9 champion Elk County Catholic 5-0 before falling to Eastern Lebanon County 4-1 in the state quarterfinals at the Hershey Racquet Club May 17.

In all, Mars compiled a record of 12-6 in nonexhibition matches.

“Overall, the season was a lot of fun,” said Planet coach Chris Knauff. “We played our best tennis at the end of the year and I’m happy with our success.”

By the second half of the season, the Planets’ lineup was set with freshmen Josh Raymundo and Aaron Gruber holding the top two singles spots, followed by sophomore Tim Hunt at No. 3 singles. The doubles teams included sophomore Noah Hudac and junior Nick DeCamp at No. 1 and freshmen Alex Gruber and Justin Simakas at No. 2.

“We gained more experience as the season went on,” said Aaron Gruber. “We learned what we were doing right and what we were doing wrong.

“It was a humbling feeling to know that we were one of the final eight teams left in the state.”

The Planets navigated their way through a difficult Section 3 slate, finishing second behind Sewickley Academy.

Raymundo won the Section 3 singles title, defeating Vincentian’s Brad Martin, Sewickley’s Patrick Dellinger and finally, Vincentian’s Derek Chen for the crown by a score of 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

But before he could represent his section at the WPIAL tournament, a dose of bad luck overcame Raymundo.

“I started getting bad pains and it ended up being appendicitis,” he said. “At first, I was disappointed about missing a chance to compete in singles at WPIALs, but that allowed me to team up with one of my best friends, Aaron Gruber, for WPIAL doubles. There’s a rule that you can’t compete in both.”

By the time the doubles competition rolled around in late April, Raymundo had recovered. He and Aaron Gruber then made an impressive run, winning three matches before falling to Sewickley’s Will Kleeman and Colin Kaye in the title match.

“It’s a different mindset, playing doubles instead of singles,” Aaron Gruber said. “You have to learn each other’s game, but I thought we meshed well.”

By finishing runner-up at WPIALs, Raymundo and Gruber earned a spot in the PIAA tournament, also held in Hershey.

They tallied an opening-round victory over a duo from Loyalsock High School before falling to eventual champion tandem Spencer Rhoads and Wes Davis of Lancaster Country Day in the quarterfinals by scores of 6-1, 5-7, 2-6 on May 24.

“They are very good players,” Raymundo said of Rhoads and Davis. “We played the first set like we had nothing to lose, but started to get timid with our shots after that. Both of our opponents were seniors and they have more experience. I think that is what made the difference.”

While the 2013 season may have closed for the Planets, with their top seven players returning, the future could not be brighter.

“This season will serve as a learning experience for our players,” said Knauff. “They saw what they are capable of and I think that will motivate them.”

“It comes down to consistency,” Aaron Gruber said. “We just need to keep practicing.”