by Tom Utescher

In last Thursday’s non-league encounter on the La Salle High School tennis courts almost all of the matches were competitive, but in the end the host Explorers won them all, chalking up a 6-0 victory over the visiting Quakers of Penn Charter.

A day later, La Salle wrapped an undefeated Philadelphia Catholic League season with a 4-1 win over Archbishop Wood, and this week the Explorers are shooting for their sixth consecutive PCL championship in the league tournament. After losing a match in the Mayors’ Cup Tournament at the beginning of the season, the team has gone 11-0 overall and 9-0 in league play. Within the PCL, which still uses a three-singles, two-doubles format, La Salle’s closest bouts have been decided by 4-1 scores, and most matches have taken less than an hour to play in their entirety.

The Explorers welcomed the competition provided last week by Penn Charter, which is in the middle of its Inter-Ac League schedule. The Quakers are 4-3 overall, with a 2-2 league record that includes victories over Germantown Academy and Malvern Prep and losses to Episcopal Academy and Haverford School. The team has a new coach this year in Phillip Stevens, a former teacher and tennis coach at the old Chestnut Hill Academy.

La Salle senior Brian Stefanowicz dashes over to cover the sideline, but realizes that the ball has been hit well out-of-bounds. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

La Salle had to adjust its line-up on the fly last Thursday when junior number one Christian Lutschaunig rolled an ankle during warm-ups. He returned later on with a pair of crutches to watch the remainder of the match.

Already on the injured list for Penn Charter was talented sophomore DreShaun Jarmon, who transferred in to PC this year from Central High School. Ineligible for Inter-Ac League competition this spring, Jarmon could’ve played in the non-league bout at La Salle if he had not been hurt.

Officially, last Thursday’s meeting consisted of three singles and three doubles matches, played in a single pro-set format. La Salle senior Brian Stefanowicz, a Lafayette College signee who moved up into the first singles spot due to Lutschaunig’s warm-up injury, pulled out a tough 9-7 victory over Charter sophomore Ben Plotnick, a Lafayette Hill resident.

It was just as well that the two teams went with the pro-set structure for the match, since the weather was warmer than had been predicted and players received a good workout in a relatively short time.

The Quakers also had sophomores at the other two singles positions. At number two, Geoff Zlobinsky squared off against another 10th-grader, Pete DeWitt, who chalked up an 8-4 win for La Salle. One rung down the ladder, the Explorers’ R.J. Napolitano was an 8-3 winner over Ben Richards of Penn Charter.

At first doubles for La Salle, junior Mike O’Connor teamed up with senior Eric Schultz, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania next year. They took an 8-4 decision from Quakers junior Tyler Gottlieb and senior David Paisner (Vanderbilt).

Four juniors faced off at second doubles, where it was Tim Walker and Joe Sullivan of La Salle over PC’s Randy Beck and Matt Brown, 8-5. The last match on and off the court was the third doubles contest involving sophomore Charlie Newell and senior J.J. Planondon (University of Delaware) of the Exlporers and PC seniors Ken Panis (Penn State) and Marc Gottschalk (George Washington). Newell and Planondon prevailed, 8-6, to complete a sweep for La Salle, which also won an exhibition doubles match.

UPDATE:  On Friday afternoon Penn Charter took an even shorter road trip to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, where the Quakers were edged by the host Blue Devils, 4-3.

Richards salvaged the third singles match for PC, but the other two individual encounters went to SCH junior number one Sam Shropshire and sophomore number two Pat Feighery. The Devils (3-2 Inter-Ac, 5-3 overall) took a 3-1 lead in the team score when sophomore Harrison Tracy and freshman Jay Regam captured the first doubles match, then the Quakers answered with a victory at fourth doubles from freshmen Max Sanders and Norman Williams.

Senior Crosby Harris and junior Tim Ogle clinched the team victory for SCH by winning at second doubles. A member of the Devils’ third doubles tandem had to prepare to star in a performance of the school’s spring play, so he and his partner retired from the court and left the way open for PC’s Beck and Gottschalk.