St. Patrick’s Day features all kinds of traditions. For the Central and St. Joseph’s Prep tennis teams, it means a weekend of on-court competition and off-the-court fun.
Central coach Mike Horwits and St. Joseph’s Prep coach Mark Kravetz started the Philadelphia Challenge in 2007 when they took over their teams, and the timing of the event just so happened to fall over and over on St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s about more than tennis,” Horwits said after Saturday’s meeting, which St, Joseph’s won, 3-2. “It’s about doing something the kids will remember and the camaraderie of it.”
A few years ago, the coaches expanded the local competition to include tennis teams from the Pittsburgh area, and they renamed the event the Clash in the City. Each year, Central and St. Joe’s either travels to Pittsburgh to play teams there or hosts teams that visit from Pittsburgh.
Last year, Hampton High School, coached by Grant McKinney and located just north of Pittsburgh, hosted the Philadelphia teams. This weekend, Hampton traveled to Philadelphia.
On Friday, Hampton swept Central, 5-0, and beat St. Joseph’s Prep, 4-1, on the first day of the event. St. Joe’s second doubles team of Mark Stahl and Rich Stahl posted the only victory for a Philly-area team.
In Saturday’s featured meeting between Central and St. Joe’s, the Hawks avenged last year’s loss and beat Central by one match. St. Joseph’s got victories from second singles Joe Wahba, third singles Krish Chawla and the second doubles teams of Rich Stahl and Mark Stahl.
For Central, victories were earned by first singles Anthony Goncharenko and the first doubles team of Joe Trachtman and Huihuang Zhu.
Later Saturday, the Lancers and Hawks combined teams to create a “Philadelphia team” that beat Hampton, 4-3, in a format with three singles and four doubles teams. However, Hampton was the overall winner with 12 wins and five losses.
Off the court, the hosts treated their guests to dinner on Friday at Chickie’s & Pete’s. Later, they attended the 76ers-Nets game at the Wells Fargo Center. On Saturday, all three teams shared lunch.
“We went all out with homemade soda bread and our own Philly Special sandwich with corned beef, cole slaw, Russian dressing and pickles,” said Horwits. “We even designed our logos as the fighting Irish leprechauns to celebrate the holiday.”
Next, Horwits said, Central and St. Joseph’s Prep plan to join forces in April and travel to Boston to face off against Boston Latin School in a Super Bowl rematch called the “Battle for Boston.”