he Cathedral Prep tennis team cramped into a Cathedral Prep van for a 15-hour haul to the home of outdoor hard court tennis, Hilton Head, South Carolina. The top seven players, (Joe and Matt Demarco, Alec Thomas, Jacob Labonte, David Estes, Jon Hortsman, and Nick Hardner) boarded the van with assistant coach Gary Palisquilio and head coach Patrick Grab Easter Sunday night for the much warmer weather down south.
The drive through the night was worth it as the Ramblers made a pit-stop in Spartansburg, South Carolina, at Spartansburg High School to play the national indoor team champions fro last year. A competitive match and a beautiful day turned dark just after introductions when rain ended the match early. The Ramblers were on serve against the reigning national champions at first singles with Joe Demarco and at third singles with Alec Thomas. Matt Demarco was up a break at number two singles. Jacob Labonte and David Estes were down a break and Jon
Horstman and Nick Hardner were down a set at their matches respectively.
“This is actually extremely disappointing,” said Matt DeMarco as the Ramblers boarded the van once more for the final 6 hours to Hilton Head Island. After a long van ride we were looking for some great tennis and matches, which we were having on most every court. “It’s a shame we were washed out.”
They arrived late Monday night at the Van Der Meer Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island where the Cathedral Prep tennis team would spend the next five days. Tuesday morning started the work for the tennis team. Practices from 9-12 and 3-6 each day tested the team on their strokes, stamina, tennis IQ, and heart as they battled the heat and their challengers under the southern sun in scorching heat.
“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky all week and not a lick of wind,” told Jacob Labonte, who endured high temperatures and humidity that brought the court temperature well over 100 degrees. While at the Van Der Meer Tennis Academy, they were coached by E.T., who coached Venus and Serena Williams for a period of time during their gland slam runs. In addition Thomas Richter who was a former top 50 ITA player in the world assisted him.
On Thursday they hopped in the van once more for a double header where they defeated Bergen Catholic 5-0 in Hilton Head. Bergen was a New Jersey state quarterfinalist. Joe and Matt DeMarco and Alec Thomas won in singles. In doubles, Jacob Labonte/David Estes and Nick Hardner/Jon Horstman won for the Ramblers. After a quick break Prep had a 4-1 win over Hilton Head Prep, the 2-time defending South Carolina 2A state champs. Matt DeMarco and
Alec Thomas won in singles. Jacob Labonte/David Estes and Nick Hardner/Jon Horstman took home their matches in doubles. Joe Demarco fell in a third set tiebreaker to a Vanderbilt commit.
After a few more days of tennis the Prep tennis team headed back to Erie with a lot more experience and a lot more tan than when they first headed down. The Prep tennis team now looks to the postseason after winning the region title and taking the number 1 seed at the district 10 tennis championships. Singles actions starts Saturday with the finals on Monday, doubles on Wednesday, and team on Friday.
Alec Thomas is a former staff writer of The Rambler and a member of the Cathedral Prep Class of 2018.