NARRAGANSETT—As the night crept forward and lights buzzed, the sounds of tennis rackets rhythmically persisted Tuesday evening at Sprague Park.
In a match that started some two hours earlier ’Gansett’s Brooke McGreen and Ashley Kennedy pushed on, deadlocked in a battle with Westerly’s Margo Douglas and Katie Kuzmic with the overall match on the line.
Fatigue – both mental and physical – had clearly set in for both sides as follow throughs lacked the vigor they once had.
Though not for lack of effort, the Mariner tandem could not pull through Tuesday evening as Douglas and Kuzmic earned a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory and a 4-3 win for the Bulldogs in the process.
“It’s a competitive situations,” Narragansett coach Peter Barlow said. “Any athlete goes through this. You don’t want to let the score dictate how you hit the ball. You have to go out and play, of course that’s easy to say from the sidelines.”
All the indications for a gridlock were there heading into Tuesday’s match, as Narragansett had yet to be defeated and Westerly’s only loss came at the hands of unbeaten Toll Gate.
As the matches began to finish the Mariners gained the early advantage, scoring wins in singles from No. 3 Kristen Gershkoff and No. 4 Mariana Sanchez 6-4, 6-2 and 6-4, 7-5, respectively.
Narragansett’s No. 1 singles player, Olivia Scalora, was no match for Westerly’s top dog, Michaela Burr, as the freshman kept her perfect record intact with a 6-0 win.
The Mariners picked up another point at No. 3 doubles after MacKenzie Page and Sarah Hoxsie downed their opponents 7-5, 6-0, but Westerly got to within 3-2 after Renée Cordio and Emily Palma outlasted Kara Heatherton and Maddie Gilbert 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 at No. 1 doubles.
Eily Sullivan put up a good fight at No. 2 singles before falling to Lani Koppermann 6-3, 6-3, leaving the match at No. 2 doubles the only one remaining.
Early on it appeared as if the Mariners were in store for a quick victory as Kennedy and McGreen won the first three points but Douglas and Kuzmic battled back to knot it at three-all.
The Mariners responded though, winning the next two games before closing out the set in the 10th.
The second set took on a different path, as Kennedy and McGreen dropped three of the first four games before rattling off three in a row to a take a 4-3 lead.
Westerly decidedly took the next game to tie it up at four but the Mariner duo answered by taking a 30-15 lead in the ninth.
From there it fell apart though as an opportunity to take control slipped away and the Bulldogs won seven straight points to knot the match at a set apiece.
The final set began with the two teams splitting the first six games but in the seventh the Mariners had a chance to take control of the match ahead 40-15 with the serve.
The game-clinching point would never come though as Westerly battled back to break the serve and take a 4-3 lead.
McGreen and Kennedy still managed to take the next game to tie it at four-all, but a golden opportunity was lost.
“That’s generally what happens. You look back and there’s a game you were up 3-1 or down 3-1 and that’s often the difference,” Barlow said. “You win a game where you’re down 1-3 it’s a turning point, you lose one when you’re up 3-1 it’s the difference in the match. It happened to both teams.”
The final two games were battles – much like the entire match was – but ultimately the duo fell a couple of strong serves or returns short of pulling it out.
While there is obviously some disappointment that comes with a first loss, the defeat doesn’t water down what has already been a very good season for the Mariners – particularly given the amount of turnover the roster underwent this offseason.
“I’m very pleased,” Barlow said. “We lost five kids last year and we really didn’t add anyone new to the team. These kids all played JV last year so they moved up and played well.
Narragansett got a chance to start a new winning streak Thursday when it hosted Middletown (results unavailable at press time) and will return to the court Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. when it travels to take on Ponaganset.