Haverford School was king of the court this spring

The high school spring sports season can be a bit of a blur. There are days when upwards of 75 games get called into our office and it doesn’t last much more than six weeks.

Tennis is hardly the marquee sport among such offerings as baseball and softball, boys and girls lacrosse — two sports in which Delco high schools have become especially proficient — and track.

But there was some pretty darn good tennis being played this spring in this county and nowhere better than at The Haverford School. The boys lacrosse team on Lancaster Avenue is widely acclaimed as the No. 1 team in the nation and John Nostrant’s team certainly deserves every accolade it gets.

The Fords tennis team, under the direction of Antonio Fink, more than held its own — with its lone loss coming to a Menlo School squad from California that is widely acclaimed as the No. 1 team in the nation. Skip Shoemaker, a Pennsylvania high school wrestling Hall of Fame coach a few miles down Lancaster Avenue, didn’t have a bad tennis team at Radnor either. More on the Raiders later.

Fink became the head coach at Haverford School in 2009. A year later the Fords won the Inter-Ac title and started a streak of titles that reached six straight this spring.

Fink is a native of Mexico City who played college tennis at the University of Texas-Pan American. He studied art at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia and got a masters degree from the Tyler School of Art. He got a job teaching art at Haverford School and, “oh, by the way, is there a sport you can help us out by coaching?’

This season was going to be special and everybody knew it. Twins Ben and Zach Lieb, the reigning Daily Times co-Players of the Year, were back at the top of the lineup, but that was only the tip of the iceberg for a team that had 10 seniors with tons of experience as well as talent in other classes, including nine freshmen.

Haverford School had been invited to participate in the National High School Tennis All-American Team Invitational in March in Newport Beach, Calif.

“I don’t even know how they found us,’ Fink said Tuesday as he watched the Fords dominate the Inter-Ac League Tournament. “I guess it was when we won NEMA (New England/Mid-Atlantic Invitational) two years ago.

“We won the Philadelphia Cup, which is always a great tournament, March 13 and 14 and it was so cold, we were freezing our butts off. A week later we were in Newport Beach, 80 degrees.’

It was the kind of event a lot of high school teams don’t get to experience. The Fords would lose to aforementioned Menlo out of Atherton, Calif., tied Harvard-Westlake School of Los Angeles and beat Brophy Prep, the reigning Arizona state champion, and San Marino, Calif.

“It was really intense out there,’ Fink said. “Every team was so solid. But our seniors were strong all season. They totally earned everything they did this year.’

The Fords arrived back on the Main Line in midseason form. The Inter-Ac tennis race is usually as contentious as you’ll find, certainly in Pennsylvania. Not this spring. Haverford School didn’t lose a match, beating all of its Inter-Ac opponents twice, each by 7-0 margins. The Fords won the team title at the NEMA event at the McDonogh School in Maryland. They piled up 26 points at Tuesday’s Inter-Ac League Tournament, 15 more than runnerup Episcopal.

Fink knows he has two unquestioned stars in the Lieb brothers. But he recently came across a quote attributed to the late, great John Wooden that goes, “the main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.’

That’s the kind of team Fink had this year. Seniors Andrew Gushner and Nathan Kidambi were unbeatable as a doubles team, but were often more valuable forming two doubles teams with other partners.

Freshman John Walsh often played third singles. Gushner would team with Jackson Simon, who sometimes paired up with Benji Bacharach, who might pair up with Teddy Selverian or Bacharach could team with the coach’s son, Mathias Fink. Or it could be Gushner and Will McDevitt.

The best two matches I saw Tuesday were Gushner and Kidambi beating McDevitt and Connor Lees in the top-flight doubles semifinals and Andrew Clark and Simon topping Walsh and Bacharach in the second-flight doubles final.

Oh, and the Fords won the Hattersley Award for the Inter-Ac tennis team with the best team grade-point average.

Meanwhile at Radnor, Shoemaker’s Raiders, led by Will Frigerio, made it to the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals before falling to Abington Heights Friday.

If the Inter-Ac is the best scholastic tennis league in the state, the Central League is second. Radnor made it three Central League teams in the final eight as the Raiders were joined by eventual state champion Lower Merion and Conestoga, which fell to Mount Lebanon in the quarterfinals.

Radnor ended up 17-7 with two of the losses to Conestoga, one to Lower Merion, one to Council Rock North in the District One semifinals and the last one in the state quarterfinals. Frigerio fell in the Central singles final to Lower Merion’s Simon Vernier and teamed with Radnor’s No. 2 singles player Josh Taylor to reach the Central doubles semifinals.

So amid all the success on baseball and softball diamonds, on the track and on the boys and girls lacrosse fields, there was some pretty good stuff going on on the tennis courts of Delco as well.

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