Sylvia Knowles Clay '45

  • 2008 Induction Class
Sylvia Knowles Clay '45

At Springside, Sylvia Knowles Clay was an outstanding varsity field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse player at the same time that she was making a name for herself outside of school playing tennis and squash. Her prescient classmates knew they had a national athlete in their midst and stated in the yearbook class prophecy, “Sylvia Knowles, it seems, is teaching Bill Tilden and Don Budge her super-swing.” Little did they know that she would indeed coach an all-time tennis great: Billie Jean King. Sylvia became a household name nationally in both tennis and squash. She won three Middle State Championships in tennis before capturing the New England Women’s indoor title at the age of 20 in 1948. In 1949, she was ranked 22nd in the nation. In 1950, she won the North Philadelphia Championship and in 1960 was ranked second in squash. She also received the Wightman Service Bowl in 1960 for her contribution to tennis. Locally, she had a long and illustrious career at the Philadelphia Cricket Club: she was the Ladies Singles and Doubles tennis winner in 1951–1956. And, in the 1954 and 1955 matches, she won the Doubles with close colleague Frank Steel. Sylvia capped off her tennis career at Philly Cricket with the Ladies Singles win in 1957. She was chair of the USLTA (United States Ladies Tennis Association) at the Germantown Cricket Club, and in 1960 she was ranked second nationally in squash. As in tennis, her name blankets the squash plaques at the Cricket Club recognizing her multiple tournament wins throughout her life.

  • Field Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Squash
  • basketball
  • tennis

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