Newtown Square – Shortly after the Episcopal Academy girls’ tennis team defeated Penn Charter Oct. 2, EA head coach Whit Powell thought something special was on the horizon for his team.
Three days later, that special moment occurred with a 6-1 win over Germantown Academy to give Episcopal the outright Inter Ac crown. This season marks the 14th time in his 17 years as head coach that Powell’s team has won or shared the Inter-Ac crown.
“I was thinking about this match all week and how much it would to win the Inter-Ac title,” said EA senior co-captain Sam Macrides, who plays first doubles with sophomore Cara Harty. “To go out and achieve our goal was really special.”
“All titles are special in their own way,” said Powell. “We added a lot of new parts to this team. It is a group of girls with different interests athletically, not simply tennis players. I think adding all around athletes increased the competitiveness of the team. The fact that we weren’t defending champs really motivated us and made us hungry. I know we had the talent to contend but the fact that we play each team only once, each match is a must win.”
The roster Powell mentioned included Eighth grader Ashley Kennedy playing first singles; junior Bella Calastri playing second singles and freshman Eliza Aldridge playing third singles.
With doubles, Powell used different thought processes with each pairing. Senior Sam Macrides and sophomore Cara Harty played first doubles; junior Grace Hennigan and senior Zoe Pasternack played second doubles; senior Lily Stavropoulos and sophomore Caroline Burt played third doubles; senior Neha Mukjerjee and junior Mackenzie Lee played fourth doubles with senior Elle Ruggerio playing fourth doubles in some non-league matches while senior Lily Baum played second doubles in some non-league matches due to Inter-Ac transfer rules that prohibited her from playing in league matches.
“Pairing upperclassmen with underclassmen was not the plan initially but it worked out great,” said Stavropoulos, who played third doubles with sophomore Caroline Burt. “It really got our team to bond on and off the court. It was really helpful to have teammates supporting each other.”
Looking for innovative ways to inspire his team, Powell went outside the box this year. Combining science and sports, Powell wanted his team to be one degree better. The 212° emblazoned across the back of the shirt sparked interest into the meaning.
“212° is a corporate concept used to get the most from employees,” said Powell. “I incorporated it to this team to encourage them to be 1 degree better than they think they can be. We say 212° when doing fitness or a difficult drill in practice. Water boils at 212 degrees and steam can power an engine, while 211 degrees is just hot water. Be the extra degree.”
“It means a lot to us that he’s always there for us on and off the court,” Stavropoulos said. “During matches he always keeps calm and is a steadying influence.”
“Look at his track record,” said Macrides. “More important than wins and losses, Coach Powell knows how to help us. He takes what we do in practice and applies it in matches as whole team and individually. He’s the best.”
Through his innovation and calming influence throughout practice and matches, the players were able to go out and concentrate on playing tennis. With two non-league matches, the Inter-Ac tournament and Agnes Irwin/EA day left as of Monday Oct. 9, the EA players will continue to work hard and try to be that one degree better.