by Tom Utescher
In challenge matches at the top of the tennis ladder for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, it’s a case of déjà vu. Closely-matched classmates Aakanksha Sharma and Federica Cristofanilli battled back and forth for the number one singles spot as juniors in 2014, and they’re at it again as they move into the senior class.
Melanie Graves, now a junior, is back as the Blue Devils’ number three singles player, so regardless of the outcome of the Sharma/Cristofanilli challenges, the top three singles positions will be filled by varsity veterans.
Back for her fifth season as head coach of the franchise is Ashley Vandegrift, a 1992 graduate of the old Springside School. In Inter-Ac League play, the SCH mentor will find herself coaching against two of her nieces when the Blue Devils go up against Penn Charter.
The two relatives, Schuyler and Brinlea LaBarge, are new students at PC this fall, entering the school as a junior and a freshman, respectively.
There is also a freshman in the mix for Vandegrift’s Blue Devil squad, one who will be the team’s fourth option at singles if one of the three regulars can’t play. Riley Redpath is moving up from SCH’s own middle school, and her mother, the former Gail Clements, is a Springside alum.
The three seniors who graduated from Springside Chestnut Hill’s 2014 team were all in the doubles flights, so the Blue Devils are having to do some reshuffling in pairs play.
Current junior Victoria Walters is the one returning member of the Devils’ first doubles team from last fall, and junior Cindy Pan and senior Emily Swan played together at second doubles in some matches last fall.
Another senior doubles player, Maia Brown, has varsity experience, and for early scrimmage action this year SCH has called upon sophomores Hannah Larkin and Catherine Cooney. Larkin was a member of the Blue Devils’ varsity squash team last winter.