COVENTRY — The Coventry girls tennis team can no longer rely on the ‘A Team’ to carry it to the Division III finals. After the graduation of three of the team’s four singles players, girls whose first name don’t being with an A are going to have to fill in the holes.
The only returning member of the ‘A-Team’ junior Abby James is back at No. 1 singles and she is joined by a number of talented returning players who remember the sting of last year’s D-III title loss to Mt. Hope at Slater Park.
“The A-Team’s sort of been obliterated, but we still have Abby up there,” Coventry coach Tiffany Risch said during Friday’s practice.
“They had a taste of what it’s like to play in the final and they didn’t like losing. I was proud of them that they made it that far and I told them that on the way home.
“They’re out for it. They don’t want revenge, per se, but they know they want a title.”
Coventry had a fantastic 2012. After winning just one match in its previous two seasons in Division II, the Oakers dropped down to Division III and went undefeated to win Division III-West. The Oakers made easy work of Rogers in the semifinals before losing to the Huskies in the final.
The Oakers, who are searching for their first title since claiming the Class C crown in 1988, will be led by James. The junior is entering her third season as the team’s No. 1 and Risch expects James to win more than her fair share of matches against the best players in the division.
“Abby has grown tremendously with her game in terms of mental preparedness,” Risch said. “She’s doing a better job of controlling the ball. I really think she’s going to be a threat this year.”
The rest of the singles order is completely new. Last year’s No. 1 doubles team of Brenna McKaig and Briana Clift have split up and moved into the singles ladder. Clift, the only senior on the team with varsity experience, will play No. 4 singles, while McKaig, a junior, slides into the No. 2 spot.
Even though the duo was fantastic last year, Risch said McKaig and Clift should flourish this season in their new roles.
“I think they’re better singles players than doubles players,’ Risch said. “They knew they had to play a role last year and that was to play doubles. I really feel they are both singles players at heart and this shouldn’t be too much of a chance for them.”
The No. 3 singles player will be Jamie Trautman. If the name doesn’t sound familiar it’s because Trautman wasn’t in the starting lineup last year, but the junior has impressed Risch in the opening two weeks of practice.
“Jamie was right on the edge of having a playing spot, but now she’s all the way up at No. 3 singles,” Risch said. “She’s really gone through everyone on the team to get up there.”
Trautman’s assention help Risch keep one of her doubles teams from last year together again this year. Juniors Shannon Oliver and Madison Sharkey were a reliable duo last year at No. 2 doubles and they will be counted on again this year to score points as the No. 1 doubles team.
“The two of them just work really well together,” Risch said. “They know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and they know where the other likes to go. They don’t have to talk, they just know where to be. It’s wonderful to have two girls like that.”
Junior Lisa Thiele, who play at No. 3 doubles last year, will slide up to No. 2 doubles to play alongside sophomore Jessica Horibin, who Risch said worked hard in the offseason to improve her game.
Two newcomers to the team, freshman Sydney Cardoza and sophomore Sarah Greene, are penciled in to play No. 3 doubles when the season begins Tuesday afternoon at Pilgrim.
“We have two brand new kids playing on the last doubles team,” Risch said. “They are both real athletic kids and they’ve caught on really quickly.”
The graduation of Ashley Fochler, Amanda Cugno and Ashley Ginda will be felt on the court, but the trio was also the emotional heartbeat of the team. Risch said Clift, the team’s lone captain, will lead the way along with the talented junior class
“I have a great captain in Bri, but it seems like everybody contributes to the team,” Risch said. “It’s not always one person stepping up the plate. They are all great because they know what they need to do to set a great example.”