With twelve consecutive Inter-Ac titles, the tennis team has thrived throughout recent years. Its rich history has been spearheaded by the team’s everlasting dedication and former tennis coach Mr. Antonio Fink’s guidance. Now, armed with a fresh roster and a new head coach, the tennis team eyes another successful season.
At the helm of this year’s tennis team is Coach Zach Lieb, a Haverford ’15 and Penn State ’19 alum. Having gone through Haverford tennis and having coached tennis for many years, Coach Lieb brings an experienced and familiar perspective to the team. Above all, he recognizes Coach Fink’s incredible legacy and contribution to the program.
“I want to give a special shoutout to Antonio Fink,” Coach Lieb said. “He’s done such a great job over the last fifteen, twenty years in really setting a standard and a culture, and creating this reputation of Haverford tennis being one of the top tennis programs in the Northeast and even the country.”
With the team’s foundations already at a high level, Coach Lieb seeks to enhance the team’s abilities and individual skills.
“My job this year is to really build on what Coach Fink and all these other contributors of the men’s varsity tennis team at Haverford have done over the years,” Coach Lieb said.
Since the beginning of the season, Coach Lieb has worked on cultivating a rich team culture, especially because of the individual pressure of playing a tennis match.
“Tennis can definitely feel lonely sometimes and feel like you’re on an island, but that’s why I think high school tennis and college tennis are so unique: you’re finally out there with teammates and doing something that’s kind of bigger than yourself.”COach Lieb ’15
“What I’ve tried to instill this year is just buying into the tennis family and the team aspect of being on the varsity tennis team,” Coach Lieb said. “Tennis is such an individual sport, and for a lot of people on the team, they play outside of school as well as in school. Tennis can definitely feel lonely sometimes and feel like you’re on an island, but that’s why I think high school tennis and college tennis are so unique: you’re finally out there with teammates and doing something that’s kind of bigger than yourself.”
The Sixth Form players have particularly stepped up and played a tremendous part in making the program feel more team-oriented.
“We’ve got a great core of senior leaders, and then we have some new faces,” Coach Lieb said. “Every team is different, and it’s kind of finding that right balance between underclassmen and upperclassmen. Something that we’ve really prioritized is the camaraderie and the smaller details and being professional, whether that be on the tennis court but more importantly in the classroom and kind of doing it ‘the Haverford way.’”
And, of course, “the Haverford way” naturally correlates to hard-fought matches and earned victories. This year is no exception. Although different from Coach Fink’s coaching style, Coach Lieb’s approach to coaching has been effective.
“There’s been a culture shift. I think Coach Lieb tries to guide the team in a different way,” Sixth Form Captain Jay Crowther said. “What I like is that he’s very understanding of each player’s individual game. He obviously tries to build skills across the team that are important for every player, but he also cares more specifically about each player’s individual games and playstyles.”
Coach Lieb’s focus on each individual player stems from his belief that every player is a significant contributor to the team.
“Each member of our team is there for a reason and brings something unique to the table and equally contributes to the success of our team.”Coach Lieb ’15
“Eleven guys start on the team, but we have twenty-one on the roster. And I’m a true believer that every single player—one through twenty-one—has to always work as hard as they can in practice,” Coach Lieb said. “Each member of our team is there for a reason and brings something unique to the table and equally contributes to the success of our team.”
Having already competed in several matches, earning themselves a 5-0 record as of April 13, the team is now working on improving their weak areas.
“We’ve had a few matches these past few weeks, and I finally saw the boys in action which was great, but it’s something to build on,” Coach Lieb said. “There were definitely things we felt as a team we could do better in, but there were things that we really felt comfortable in and were really proud of.”
Nonetheless, the team is developing and has found success in their individual techniques and match strategies.
“We had implemented some of these strategies and double formations that we’ve worked on these past few weeks, and we found some early success with that,” Coach Lieb said.
Crowther agrees with Coach Lieb’s observations, and he underscores that it is the team’s ubiquitous support that has helped the team win.
“I think everyone’s finding their place on the team. I think every player has sort of a unique role, but I think everybody works and meshes together well,” Crowther said. “I think there’s a lot of support across the team. At the first game [against Penn Charter], seeing everyone really intensely supporting each other through the blowouts and the tougher matches was really good to see.”
Ultimately, it is the combination of the underclassmen and upperclassmen that enables the team to succeed. As the Sixth Formers cultivate a positive environment, the younger players bring intensity and talent.
“I am very excited. I think everybody is coming together at the right time.”Jay Crowther ’23
“I think the future for this team is bright. We have a lot of deep talent, and I think most of the talent is not in the form of some of the older guys—I think it’s in the freshmen and sophomores,” Crowther said. “There’s a lot of potential to continue to succeed for this team.”
As they enter the heat of the season, Crowther is confident about the team’s future.
“I am very excited. I think everybody is coming together at the right time,” Crowther said. “This first match was a big eye-opener: we’re all in it together, and we win and lose as a team.”
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