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COVENTRY ‚ÄĒ The Coventry boys tennis team has won just one match in each of the last two seasons and the Oakers might not win many matches this season, but there is hope for the squad going forward.
The Oakers were swept in their first match of the season last week by North Providence, but coach Tiffany Risch sees potential in a team which has just three juniors and seniors to go along with four sophomores and freshmen.
‚ÄúI have a lot of sophomores and freshmen and we‚Äôre trying to setup plays with them and try to teach them the game in just two weeks, which is hard,‚Äô Risch said after the defeat to the Cougars. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs talent, it‚Äôs just a matter of them putting it together for the whole match and not getting rattled because it‚Äôs their first time out there.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard to go from not playing anything to right in a varsity match where other kids have been playing for a while and other kids have JV teams.‚ÄĚ
Coventry‚Äôs lone captain is senior No. 1 singles player Matt Haley, who played well in his opening match of the season. Haley won five games in a straight-set loss and Risch said Haley simply needs to be more consistent if he wants to win matches against Division III‚Äôs top players.
‚ÄúMatt‚Äôs gotten better with his game,‚ÄĚ Risch said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs really smart on the court, it‚Äôs just about consistency with him, especially when he‚Äôs playing against a hard hitter. He just needs to finish rallies and hit more winners.‚ÄĚ
The only other senior on the team, Sylvester Gervasio, is slotted into the No. 2 spot and he was the only Oaker to win a set in the opening match. After losing to North Providence‚Äôs David Chen 6-1 in the first set, the senior earned a 7-6 win in the second set before dropping a 6-1 decision in the final set. Gervasio is a first-year player.
One of the kids Risch has high hopes for his No. 3 singles player Zach Branchaud, who suffered a 6-2, 6-0 loss at No. 3 singles to North Providence‚Äôs David Caracciolo. Risch believes Branchaud and fellow freshman Jared Wheeler are the future No. 1 and No. 2 singles players in the program.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm impressed with the rallies they can hang with,‚ÄĚ Risch said. ‚ÄúI will put them against my No. 1 singles player, Matt Haley, who is a senior and they will hit with him. I‚Äôm impressed that they are just freshmen and they want to hit with him and they hang with him.‚ÄĚ
Junior David Brodeur will fill out the singles spots, while Wheeler and sophomore Rob Thibeault are slotted to play No. 1 doubles together. The second doubles team will feature a pair of girls in sophomores Megan Harrington and Nicole Fochler who play sports other than tennis in the fall so they play on the boys team in the spring.
The third doubles freshman Stephen Brodeur and sophomore Dylan Chapdelaine were the only Oakers not to win a match against the Cougars
Coventry will play in Division III Central-B along with Mt. Hope, Tiverton, North Providence, Providence Country Day and St. Raphael. Last year‚Äôs Division III champion Middletown moved up to Division II, while former D-II struggler Shea made the move down a division and will play in III-Central A along with West Warwick.
‚ÄúI just want to see growth and development and we have to fill the spots that the two seniors are going to leave,‚ÄĚ Risch said. ‚ÄúThey need to learn the game a little better and the strategy behind it and get a little powerful with their hits. I hope we can win some matches, but we‚Äôve had a realignment, so I don‚Äôt know who is good.‚ÄĚ
Risch knows her team will go through some growing pains this season, but she‚Äôs excited to see the growth of her underclassmen as the campaign churns along.
‚ÄúThey come with some skill, but it‚Äôs fun to show them new things,‚ÄĚ Risch said. ‚ÄúThey get excited when they learn it and it‚Äôs easier for them and it makes it a lot more fun for them. The best part is when they get excited to be out there.‚ÄĚ