Friendship Cup 2017
Mike Kolendo, USTA New England Vice President | June 28, 2017
QUECHEE, VT- The Friendship Cup's 50th Anniversary weekend kicked off with the annual Friendship Cup banquet. A few years ago, the Quebec women’s captain, Pauline LaFieniere, started a Friendship Cup Hall of Fame. and this year, the New England men entered its inaugural class. Gail Smith, the New England women’s captain, inducted Judy Smith, who played 14 consecutive Cup competitions from 1986 through 1999, amassing a 22-5 record into the Hall. The New England men inducted both Irving Levine and Henry Tiberio. Irving is one of the event’s founders (his Canadian counterpart was George Barta) and both Irving and Henry played in the very first Friendship Cup competition 50 years ago in 1967 at Jay Peak.
Spending time with Irving, Henry and their entourages was a highlight of the weekend. I’ve met them both before but it was a pleasure to spend some time with them and show them what their event has grown into. That first Friendship Cup pitted 10 men from New England against 10 men from Quebec in the 45s. Now the men’s teams have grown to 36 members, which include age divisions for 45s, 50s,55s, 60s, 65s, 70s, 75s, and 80s., and in 1988, the women joined the event. We had about 175 at the banquet and Peter Allen put it perfectly: “Irving and Henry were both clearly touched by their Hall inductions, basking in the glow of having helped to create such a legacy competition.”
The competition itself started at 9 am on Saturday morning with everyone playing singles. At first it looked bleak for the New England men’s team — we dropped 11 of the first 12 matches. But we clawed our way back to a respectable 20-16 deficit by the end of the day. Historically, the Quebec team has an edge in the singles while the New England team’s hopes often ride on the doubles. This was the case this weekend as New England won 13 of the 18 doubles matches to bring the Cup back home with a final match score of 28-26.
It’s always great when it comes down to the last couple of matches. Everyone stays until the end and its typically left to the best players from both teams to decide the final outcome. This year was no exception. Our #1 doubles team (45s) of Brian Powell and George Markell won the deciding point. Our #2 team of Brian Lomax and Jim Santoro ended the event with a very tough straight set will as well.
When it was all over, Lucien Demarsais, Quebec’s captain, said (with a sarcastic smile) “Congratulations Mike, this year was your turn. After all we’ve had it for the last two years.” He does such a great job with his team.
Some highlights (from the men’s side):
A group from the Quebec team hired a professional production company to attend and shoot the event, and will be making a professional movie on the Friendship Cup and it’s 50th Anniversary and players will receive a copy.
Jacques Silvestri arranged to have the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec give the Friendship Cup a special commendation.
David Lowry competed in his 35th straight Friendship Cup under eight different team captains. David played in the 1980s and lost a very close singles match that lasted almost 3 hours He teamed with first time FC player Mal Swanson to win a doubles point for us.
Friendship Cup 1st timers Brian Powell and George Markell (45s) won 3 of 4 possible points for us, including the deciding doubles match.
Scott Snow and Jim Santoro both got there 1st Friendship Cup victories when we needed them the most.
The banquet was special — and Gail Smith should get the credit. She worked long and hard to make sure that the venue, the dinner, and the cake with the special 50th anniversary logo went off without a hitch.
At the banquet we honored all of the past team captains for their hard work in getting us to where we are today. Without their efforts, the Friendship Cup (to many of us, our favorite event each year) might not be played today.
Heather Anastos and Bob Greene came to represent USTA New England and that really meant a lot.