Lieb brothers leave a winning legacy behind

HAVERFORD — When the Inter-Ac League held its annual tournament this spring, no winner of the individual singles bracket was crowned.

That’s because the Inter-Ac had two winners this year when it came to singles. They would be twin brothers Ben and Zach Lieb, who anchored one of the best high school tennis teams the state of Pennsylvania has ever seen from the top two singles spots.

As a result the two seniors are the Daily Times boys tennis co-Players of the Year for a second straight spring. In much the same way that Ben and Zach did not meet for the Inter-Ac singles title after blitzing their semifinal opponents, 10-0, in a 10-point pro set, it is only fitting that they share the Daily Times’ top honor boys tennis honor.

Ben and Zach Lieb are joined on the All-Delco tennis team by Radnor junior Will Frigerio, Springfield junior Tyler Stroyek and Strath Haven sophomore Xandy Hammitt. Frigerio, Stroyek and Hammitt appear on the All-Delco team for the first time. The Lieb brothers are four-time All-Delco choices, beginning with their freshman season when they joined older brother Jordan on the team. The All-Delco team is chosen by the Daily Times in consultation with county coaches.

Ben Lieb never lost a high school tennis match. Zach Lieb figures he lost eight matches. But their individual accomplishments pale alongside the dominance The Haverford School has displayed on the tennis court in recent seasons, especially the 2015 season.

The success the Fords have achieved in recent seasons is what earned them a trip to Newport Beach, Calif. for the National High School Tennis All-American Team Invitational in late March. Ben and Zach point to older brother Jordan and the teams that started a run of Inter-Ac titles that reached six straight this spring as the genesis of the national recognition for the Fords.

“That’s how we got into the National Invitational,’ Zach Lieb said on The Haverford School campus as he and Ben looked back on the 2015 season and their careers on the Main Line. “It wasn’t because we were good last year. It goes back to when Jordan was here and the Dan Brennans and those guys.’

In Newport Beach, Haverford School won twice, tied a match and suffered their only loss of the season to a Menlo School team from Atherton, Calif. considered the top high school team in America. The Fords played every team in the Inter-Ac twice this spring and swept to 7-0 victories every time. They beat PIAA Class AAA champion Lower Merion twice and claimed wins over Conestoga and Radnor, the two other Central League teams, along with Lower Merion, that reached the Class AAA quarterfinals in the PIAA team competition.

“We knew we would be good this year because we had 10 seniors,’ Ben Lieb said. “But people think we’re going to have a dropoff next year with all those seniors gone, but there are a lot of good young players coming up.’

By then Ben and Zach Lieb will be at Penn State. Older brother Jordan is not far away at Bucknell, but a trip to Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State play Massachusetts last September helped seal the deal for the twins.

“It’s hard not to fall in love with the sports culture there,’ Ben Lieb said. “(Head coach) Jeff Zinn and (assistant coach) Paul Tobin said they had two spots available and we said we’re in. I think they liked the idea of having a couple of recruits from Pennsylvania coming into the program.’

In the meantime, there will be one more summer of junior tennis, including representing Middle States in team competition and a return trip to the USTA Junior National Tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich., at which they compete in both singles and as a formidable doubles team.

They will certainly bring a winning attitude to Penn State. It hasn’t just been tennis at The Haverford School in the 2014-15 school year, the Fords started winning last fall and never really stopped. Haverford School was awarded the Heyward Cup, which goes to the Inter-Ac School with the best winning percentage in all sports.

“We won 81 percent of our games in all sports this year,’ Ben Lieb said, checking his phone to make sure he got the number right. “That’s strong.’

“We all feed off each other,’ Zach Lieb said. “Grant Ament is one of our friends on the lacrosse team. You see him and the lacrosse team winning the way they have and we want to do the same.’

They came into the world together Jan. 3, 1997. They have been together at The Haverford School for 14 years. They are not identical twins, but their pursuit of success both on and off the tennis court is identical and single-minded.

“It will be weird going from a school of 400 to a school of 40,000, but we think we’re ready for it,’ Zach Lieb said.

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