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Liberty boys tennis rebounds from down season

Posted 3/23/17

Richard Smith

West Valley Preps

After missing the state playoffs in 2016, the first time in eight years outside the bracket, Liberty boys tennis players and coaches returned this spring …

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Liberty boys tennis rebounds from down season

Richard Smith

West Valley Preps

After missing the state playoffs in 2016, the first time in eight years outside the bracket, Liberty boys tennis players and coaches returned this spring determined to avoid a repeat performance.

The Liberty boys tennis team celebrates winning first place in the Peoria Unified School District championships in February.
With a 6-1 record and a district championship in the books for the first half of the season, the Lions are on track to return to Division I postseason play.

Ninth-year coach Ron Anderson said most of the returning players worked diligently on their games in the offseason, more than any of the other teams he has coached.

“There was an obvious difference. Everybody was on their game,” junior Alec Moonier said.

Intense competition for the six varsity spots also pushed the players to another level. With top singles and doubles player Moonier returning and junior varsity players improving, every spot would be earned.

One senior quit and another was injured. Recently another had to make way for a varsity newcomer.

“It was obvious that we weren’t going to be able to fit six seniors on the varsity so there was a lot of competition,” Coach Anderson said. “I could see there was a lot of motivation from everybody to get that spot. Now we have three non-seniors on varsity.”

Junior Zachary Hew seized the No. 4 singles role. Sophomore Travis Young started the season as the No. 1 junior varsity player but now is No. 5 on the varsity.

They filled key roles for Liberty, who could count on Moonier and seniors Mason Powers and Brady Snow holding down the top spots.

‘There’s a lot of new faces and it’s been great to see everyone improve,” Powers said.

Senior Kade Moffitt earned the final spot and teams with Snow on the Lions’ No. 2 doubles side.

Moonier took up the sport at age 4 and has gained the experience to grow into a potential ace. He and Powers are in their second season as a doubles team.

Then unranked, the duo won the Paradise Valley doubles tournament as a surprise last year, knocking off several highly rated teams along the way.

“I think we’ve always been deep. We’ve never really had an elite player at the top. Now we have an elite doubles team and Alec is working to become an elite player. The win at Basha really showed that,” Coach Anderson said.

That 5-4 victory against the Chandler school was the crowning achievement so far. Coach Anderson said Basha could be the best team the Lions play in the regular season.

“We had some clutch moments and tough matches, and barely squeezed out a victory at the end,” Powers said.

Ironwood was the perennial No. 2 team in the district and the only Peoria Unified school to have beaten the Lions. On March 14, Liberty swept the Eagles after winning in three of four PUSD categories.

The team’s sights were set on an undefeated regular season and home team playoff match. Moonier and his team with Mason should factor into the individual and doubles Division I tournament.

But a 5-4 loss to an emerging Shadow Ridge team on March 16 knocked the Lions back to No. 11 in the power rankings. The undefeated Stallions are No. 5 in the rankings.

Liberty should be favored in its remaining seven matches and could creep back up into the top eight.

A first round home match and win would allow the Lions to escape their recent fate as opening round fodder for powerhouses like Chandler Hamilton, Phoenix Brophy Prep and Scottsdale Chaparral.

“Our goal was to finish the season undefeated, get a seed in state and host the first round. Obviously the second round is going to be tough, probably in the East Valley somewhere playing somebody like a Hamilton or Chaparral,” Coach Anderson said.