The Springside Chestnut Hill Academy tennis team finished as the runner-up in the Inter-Ac League for 2019. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The racquetmen of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy found themselves in an unfamiliar position last Tuesday afternoon. After many seasons of placing in the lower reaches of final standings in the Inter-Ac League, the Blue Devils were playing for the 2019 championship.

Although the locals were not able to overcome visiting Haverford School, which emerged as the league’s undefeated champion, a second-place showing was still the best outcome for an SCH squad in many years.

The team opened league play by defeating the two other schools on this side of the Schuylkill River, Germantown Academy and Penn Charter, by 4-3 scores. The middle of the season brought some solid non-league wins over the likes of Hill School and La Salle High School.

Starting in on their Main Line opponents in the Inter-Ac, the Blue Devils took down Malvern Prep, 5-2, and then surprised everyone except themselves by conquering longtime league power Episcopal Academy, 4-3. The Devils’ momentary disappointment at last week’s 1-6 loss to Haverford would fade in light of the overall improvement they’ve shown this spring. Securing the one SCH victory against the Fords, senior Victor Jones competed an undefeated run at second singles in league play.

Asked if she’d seen this kind of season shaping up beforehand, second-year head coach Karen Simeone said, “I thought we had a lot of potential; last year they really began to understand doubles. This year we had good partnerships and they learned the strategy.

“In singles, Victor showed tremendous improvement,” she went on. “He’s graduating, but we’ll have Levi Veleanu [a junior at number one] and David Lubell [a freshman at number three] back next year. Levi is a real fighter. He went three sets to win his match with Episcopal, and I think it’s been quite a while since anyone in our program won a first singles match against Episcopal.”

The very beginning of the season was marked by non-league losses to Shipley School (2-3) and Germantown Friends (0-7), but Simeone still saw reason for encouragement.

“We lost to GFS by the same score last season, but this time the matches were much closer, with four of them going three sets. I think that the boys could also see that despite that match score, they were improving, and after that we didn’t lose again until this Haverford match.”

The senior captains for the Blue Devils were Jones and Cole Golden, whose mother, Allison, served an assistant coach for the team. Occasionally, the players also got some instruction from Pia Druggan, the wife of SCH head of school Steve Druggan, and from Dan Lee, a coach with experience at the collegiate level.

In last week’s encounter with Haverford, Jones completed his run through the league with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Sunny Yu. At first singles, Veleanu succumbed to visitor Nikhil Chakraborty in a pair of 6-3 sets, and the Fords’ Cole Wolf got the better of Lubbell in the third spot, 6-3, 6-2.

At first doubles, SCH’s Golden and his partner, junior Sante Filippini lost to Thomas Ward and Aly Ba, 6-4, 6-2.

Haverford’s Adamya Aggarwal and Jared Hoefner won the second doubles contest, 6-3, 6-3, over Blue Devils senior Ehson Shirazi and junior George Peck, and the fourth doubles match was also scored 6-3, 6-3, with SCH freshman Victor Kasian and junior Christopher Yarrish falling to visitors Lachie Alexander and Christian Crowder.

In the last match to wrap up, SCH senior Simon Kioko and freshman Zach Schapiro won their first set, 6-2, but the next two went to the Fords’ Joaquin Arias and Aditya Sardesai, 6-4, 6-2.