When one considers dominance in the history of sports, Tom Brady’s seven Super Bowl wins, Rafael Nadal’s unmatched record of thirteen Roland Garros titles, and Bill Russell’s eleven rings with the Celtics often come to mind. Despite these individuals’ astounding accomplishments, how many of them have been consecutive? Here at Haverford, the tennis team continues its reign over the Inter-Ac with its historic eleven straight (and counting) Inter-Ac titles.
Given the circumstances for the team, title number eleven proved to be quite the challenge.
“Most of the adversity that the team faced was due to COVID-related restrictions—like all other Haverford sports faced— like transportation issues, zero or limited fans, etc.,” said assistant coach Ms. Stephanie Kantor. “We play and practice at Baldwin, so we had to be careful to follow their protocol in addition to Haverford.”
With the tennis courts being used for Virtue Village, the players had to make the daily commute to Baldwin after school. At a new facility, the team as a whole was quick to adapt to their temporary home court.
Despite the challenges, the routine and mentality remained the same and evident: emphasis on the fundamentals.
“Showing up to practice every day— when it rained we went into the gym and worked harder—to get fit and strong.”Mr. Fink
“Showing up to practice every day— when it rained we went into the gym and worked harder—to get fit and strong,” head coach Mr. Antonio Fink said.
“Coach Fink’s philosophy is to make us the ‘fittest’ team in the Inter-Ac, because that’s ‘how we win,’” Fifth Form captain Adamya Aggarwal said. “So we saw a lot of drills and shadow swings early in the season when we didn’t have access to courts. Although it may not seem like it, these drills and workouts helped shape us and give us skills that we can use on the court.”
From a grueling pre-season, the outcome was apparent in the team’s results.
“We won 17 out of 22 three-set matches, a clear testament to our fitness,” Fourth Former Jay Crowther said.
In many of these split-set battles when the match was on the line, the Fords garnered their mental strength and energy, the reason why they were able to close out matches against opposition.
“It comes back to diligence during practice and the energy we brought to the games. The Fords wanted the wins more than the other teams and we made it clear through our intensity and how hard we fought in the big moments in our matches,” Crowther said.
Throughout their 17 matches during this season, the energy of the team remained the same as they journeyed to number 11. Most importantly, the overarching notion of brotherhood, deeply rooted in Haverford’s values, was at full display with the tennis team.
“The varsity team was extremely supportive of one another during matches, constantly cheering for one another while playing and watching. I think this support created a real camaraderie and encouraged everyone to do their best for the team,” Coach Kantor said.
“No matter where we were, we were the loudest team when it came cheering each other on and the support from the other boys is unmatched,” Fourth Former Neil Sawhney said.
On the logistical side of things, the structure of the season differed from previous years. Normally, teams would play each other once or twice a season but the Fords played each Inter-Ac team twice: home and away. Even with this, the major change for the team, and spring sports, was the newly introduced IAAL Tournament. Similar to a playoff fashion, teams based on the overall record in the regular season would face each other in an elimination bracket format.
“I thought the Inter-Ac tournament was a great idea to define the winner of such a unique season. It will be interesting to see how things remain in the league once there is more normalcy in the things we do,” Coach Fink said.
The Fords received a bye in the first round, given they were the second seed. In the semi-finals, they faced Germantown Academy and comfortably ousted them 5-2. In the final, they met none other than school rivals Episcopal Academy, for the Inter-Ac title.
“I remember thinking that I had to give everything left in the tank for one final match and it was all-or-nothing – and so was everyone on the team,” said Crowther. In spectacular fashion, the Fords clinched their 11th consecutive title with a statement win of 6-1, avenging their 3-4 loss prior to the IAAL Tournament.
“Use your losses to motivate you to win the next time. We as a team did that multiple times.”Adamya Aggarwal ’22
Looking back at this notable season, the players took away many lessons.
Aggarwal said, “Use your losses to motivate you to win the next time. We as a team did that multiple times. But I took this lesson to heart playing the EA’s first doubles team in the finals. Christian Crowder and I had played them twice before and lost both times. I remember just constantly telling myself, ‘We are not going to lose a third time.’ And we didn’t.”
Likewise, within the tennis team, the saying, “you either win or learn” was representative of Aggarwal and the collective efforts of the team. As they were able to manifest this, the Fords look to come into the 2021-2022 season with high hopes.
Coach Fink said, “The goal is always to win every match we play, to win the Inter Ac, and to represent Haverford to the best of our ability.”