by Tom Utescher
The racquetmen of La Salle College High School recently closed out another successful season, winning their sixth straight tennis title in the Philadelphia Catholic League, and repeating as PIAA District 12 champion.
During their undefeated regular season campaign, the Explorers competed much of the time without their number one player, Christian Lutschaunig. The junior was troubled by tendinitis early in the spring, then he sprained an ankle in mid-April during warm-ups at a non-league match against Penn Charter.
Senior Brian Stefanowicz, who has earned a scholarship to Lafayette College, moved up to the top spot.
At the beginning of May La Salle topped St. Joseph’s Prep, 3-2, to claim its sixth consecutive Philadelphia Catholic League title, then it was on to the PIAA District 12 championship match against the Philadelphia Public League winner, Central High School.
This was a 5-0 sweep for the Explorers, with Stefanowicz, sophomore Pete DeWitt, and junior R.J. Napolitano winning at first, second, and third singles. The victorious doubles duos consisted of juniors Mike O’Connor and John Neufeld in the first flight, and seniors Eric Schultz (Penn) and J.J. Plamondon (Delaware) at second doubles.
Things did not go as well in the opening match of the PIAA Class AAA state tournament, as La Salle was toppled 4-1 by the second seed out of District 1, Unionville High School. The number one for the Indians is 2011 state singles champion Mike Furr, and most of Furr’s teammates also won their matches against the Explorers, with Napolitano coming through at third singles to save La Salle from a shut out.
This ended their run as a team, but several Explorers players were still going in district and state singles and doubles tournaments, which are separate from the team competition. In the District 12 singles championships, Stefanowicz won the title by avenging an earlier loss. In the Catholic League championship match, he had fallen to St. Joe’s Prep sophomore Grant Boyce, but in district singles final he overcame Boyce, 6-2, 4-6, 6-0.
Singles players throughout the regular season, La Salle’s DeWitt and Napolitano joined forces to win the District 12 doubles crown, beating a pair from the Prep in the finals. For all three Explorers, it was on to the singles and doubles state championships in Hershey, held May 25 and 26.
Stefanowicz had a difficult draw, and lost in the first round, 0-6, 0-6, to the eventual PIAA singles champion, Kevin Wang of Conestoga High School (who also led the Pioneers to the state team title in Class AAA). Napolitano and DeWitt met with a similar fate, losing two 2-6 sets in their tourney opener against a duo from Radnor High.