The outlook this season for the Lady Mustangs was "rebuilding after losing top five.""After losing our entire lineup, I honestly thought we were going to struggle this year and maybe have about a .500 record," coach Maria Rapchinski said.
To make matters worse, there were only nine girls on the team. In addition, Becky Maidansky, one of Coach Rapchinski's top players, sprained her ankle during the first league match, sidelining her until the playoffs.
The top five singles players for Mifflin were in order of one through five were Alyssa Gleason, Kaitlin Kimmel, Amanda Clauser, Ashley Babula and Maura Levandowski.
"Alyssa was a new face on the team that made an impact," Rapchinski said. "Just a freshman, she worked her way to the No. 1 spot and really did some damage in the league. She can really punish the ball with authority despite having such a small frame."
Gleason had a regular season singles record of 8-1 while Kimmel was 9-2, Clauser, 11-0, Babula, 11-0 and Levandowski, 6-3.
At No. 1 doubles, Gleason/Clauser was 7-1 as was Kimmel/Babula at No. 2 doubles. Gleason/Clauser qualified for districts. They lost in the first round in three sets to Conestoga Valley.
However, the toughest team loss for Mifflin occurred against Holy Name in the quarterfinals of the Berks playoffs.
"They have a good team, but I thought we could've played a little better that day," Rapchinski said. "It was tough for us to go to a 3-2 format. You really have to have some depth on your squad to make a statement in the playoffs."
Next, the girls were really excited to be in team districts. They got to see the next level of play and how far they still have to come to compete at this level after dropping two 3-0 matches to Dallastown and Carlisle.
"I think we can just chalk up those losses to being great experiences and, hopefully, give them something to shoot for next year," Rapchinski said.
Before the postseason, the Mustangs enjoyed their best results as a whole at the Flight Tournament since Rapchinski started coaching the Mifflin girls in 2000.
Gleason took fourth place at Flight 1. Clauser and Babula reached the finals of Flights 3 and 4, respectively.
"It was a grueling couple of days," Rapchinski said. "You really have to be in shape to perform at that tournament. They really played out of their minds. It was awesome to watch."
In non-league matches, Blue Mountain and Fleetwood proved to be more than worthy adversaries.
"I would like to think that we could've beaten Blue Mountain or Fleetwood later in the season," Rapchinski said. "Our Fleetwood match ended 4-3. Blue Mountain was really tough. They overpowered us."
Nevertheless, Clauser and Babula stood out as the most improved players even when their teammates were taking a beating.
"Amanda played No. 7 last year," Rapchinski said. "She was such a rock at No. 3 singles. She finished 11-0 in the league.
"Ashley was at the bottom of the lineup last year and saw very little playing time. She was a mental warrior at No. 4 singles this year. She finished 11-0. Ashley really spent a lot of time working on her game in the off-season.
"Both players completely stunned me. Their records speak for themselves."
And the Mustangs as a team astounded Rapchinski, who made up her mind not to treat these players any differently from the experienced teams she coached in the past. When she saw that they could handle her constant "pushing" at practice, she continued to challenge them even more as the season progressed.
"These kids totally exceeded my expectations," Rapchinski said. "Everyone likes to point to the fact that our division is weak. Guess what? My kids still had to go out and consistently play their best tennis everyday."
"I am so proud of what they accomplished. I told them at the end of the season that it is extremely difficult to win a team championship - that it takes a special group of people to do this. They truly are a special group of people who believed in themselves and made a believer out of me," the coach added.