How significant was winning the ninth Division I state tennis championship for the La Salle Academy boys?
This significant: It was the first boys’ team tennis title won since 1977.
The Rams defeated Moses Brown, 4-2, on Saturday and in the process completed an undefeated season (13-0).
This is huge for us and for the school because when you think of La Salle you don’t think our team is good,” Tomas Mendina said. “Plus we’re all so young. We have to keep on this legacy of the boys’ tennis team.
“Now the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams are good.”
The Rams were leading, 3-2, with only the No. 1 singles match remaining, which involved Mendina and the Quakers’ Ethan Antonelli.
Mendina prevailed, 6-2, 6-4, which set off an enthusiastic celebration on the Slater Park courts.
With the matches spread out over seven courts, Mendina didn’t know what was happening on the other six.
“I didn’t know until the last game when they started walking toward me,” Mendina said. “Then I realized this was the game right here. I was elevated. I made my game go up. Then I couldn’t believe we won the state championship.
State championship notwithstanding, the Rams lost only one set all season.
Do the math and that means the Rams won 85 of 91 sets for a winning percentage of .934.
“It’s a bunch of kids who love to practice and love to get better,” coach Steve Crawford said. “They show up every day. They’re ready to go. They have a great spirit.
We’ve just improved as the year’s gone on. They were confident — not cocky — but they were confident in their ability and it showed today.”
Prior to Mendina’s clinching point, the Rams also received victories from Ben DeJordy at No. 3 singles; Eoin Stansfield and Xavier Millett at second doubles; and Jameson Conlon and Hunter Holoubek at third doubles.
“It’s a good team,” understated Crawford. “We have a very talented bunch of tennis players at La Salle and we’re very young.
We have two seniors (Matt Maggiacomo and Millett) in our lineup. Everybody else for the most part are sophomores and freshmen. The best is yet to come. There’s a great foundation built here to be very successful. We have wonderful kids.”
What made this championship even more satisfying was that prior to this season the Rams were slated to play in Division II while the other La Salle teams play in Division I.
“La Salle always has been Division I,” Crawford said. “I don’t know how it got proposed that they would go to Division II. When it was found that we were going into Division II, the administration fought it hard and said ‘That’s not how it should be’ and they made the correction and here we are.
“There’s a little justice here.”
Mendina almost was at a loss for words while trying to decipher why the Rams only lost one set all season.
“I felt like we all played well,” Mendina said. “Most players went almost undefeated. The whole team was good. It wasn’t like one player carried the whole team. The team as a whole came together.”
Crawford obviously was aware of how long it had been since La Salle captured a boys’ team tennis title.
“I told them this year it’s been a half-century since a boys team has been successful at La Salle,” Crawford said. “I played at La Salle in 1970 and we won the state championship that year so it was time.