Hempfield, Latrobe tennis teams come together to celebrate late coach’s vision

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | 9:52 AM

Enrico Campi played a vital role in developing the blossoming interest of scores of Westmoreland County tennis players in his nearly three decades of owning the Greensburg Racquet Club.

Five years after his death, the girls he once instructed gathered to commemorate him as their senior seasons of high school tennis drew to a close.

On Oct. 4, players from the Hempfield and Latrobe girls tennis programs faced off in the regular-season finale. Latrobe won the match, 5-0, but the day was more about remembering Campi.

“He used to say to them when they were little, ‘One of these days, girls, you’re going to be a senior in high school and you’ll be playing against each other,” Hempfield coach Susan Barbe-Stas said.

“But always remember to be friends.’”

And that’s exactly the case for the programs.

When they’re not battling for set wins, they’re cheering on one another.

“Latrobe, we’re so proud of them,” Hempfield senior Alexis Smith said. “They were second in the state last year. But, you can win and win, and nobody’s going to remember your wins unless you’re kind and you have good sportsmanship.

“I think that really stood out to us. They’re so accomplished, but only because they’ve been so kind to everybody along the way.

Before the match, the teams joined hands, along with Campi’s widow, Molly, and daughter Cassandra, to have a moment of silence.

“That was a really great moment,” Smith said. “We were all just kind of one. We all grew up training together, and it really didn’t matter that we were split into two different school districts.”

Said Barbe-Stas: “It was a homecoming for the girls to see Molly and Cassandra. When we did the moment of silence, it was definitely very emotional. It felt as if we were one team. That was maybe the best moment of the entire evening.”

The players presented Molly Campi with flowers. Signs hung with Campi’s favorite sayings printed on them. During the match, the girls wore lime green ribbons — Campi’s favorite color. And, after, they enjoyed some of his favorite snacks.

“It was unbelievable,” said Kimberly Smith, Alexis’ mother who spoke during the remembrance. “And when the kids started competing, there was so much friendship. It just made everyone smile.”

Given the success of programs like Latrobe and Hempfield over the years, it is clear Campi’s impact on the court was invaluable. But the bonds formed between players, parents and coaches, and the emphasis on sportsmanship, might carry much more weight into the future.

“Yes, we are competing, but all in all, we are one with tennis,” Barbe-Stas said. “That’s thanks to his leadership.”

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