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Putting heated finals battle in past will be key for EG playoff run

October 20, 2013

Photo: Evan Crawley

PAWTUCKET—Where do we go from here?
It’s the big question facing the East Greenwich tennis team as it plays out the remainder of its season with aspirations of a Division I Championship a definite reality.
Two teammates – senior Aleksandra Drljaca and freshman Peri Sheinin – battled for the first time Sunday and there’s no denying at times it got a little nasty.
“It did,” EG coach Marc Brocato said. “When you come upon the top tennis players in the state a lot of times they’re pit bulls. Their edge sometimes is the fact that they just detest and loath losing. That was the situation we were in.”
“It always gets nasty, especially here,” Drljaca said. “You’ve got to forget about the team aspect and sort of think about individuals. That’s just how it is.”
There were moments were each players was frustrated – frustrated with themselves and their opponent to where the tension was absolutely palpable.
In the end one had to lose.
One teammate had to beat the other and the question remains; where do we go from here?
The simple answer is the semifinals of the Division I playoffs where the Avengers will meet Smithfield today at 3 p.m. with the right to play for the state title on the line.
The solution though is obviously a little more complicated, since Sheinin has played the entire season at No. 2 singles for the Avengers and Drljaca No. 1.
In theory as long as they’re both playing in either of the top two spots on the ladder it shouldn’t matter.
Drljaca has beaten every potential No. 1 she could face in the playoffs and since Sheinin handed Drljaca her first loss in two years Sunday logic only dictates that the pint-sized frosh could do the same.
“It’s something I haven’t really thought about,” Brocato said, “and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
Unfortunately it likely won’t be that simple.
Traditionally in tennis the best player occupies the No. 1 singles spot no matter what and given Sheinin’s win on Sunday she should play atop the ladder.
Yet this is a very uncommon situation.
According to state tournament referee John Jasionowski – who in addition to his duties coaching the Cumberland girls tennis team has been involved with the state tournament since the 1980s – he can only remember three sets of teammates meeting for the singles title since 1980.
Given that this is only the fourth time this has happened in the past 30-plus years there is not a tremendous amount of precedent to go off of, especially considering that the Avengers’ top two players have clearly proven themselves to be by far the best in the state.
“We’ll sit down and talk to the players and see how it goes. It’s just too soon to think about that type of thing,” Brocato said. “It’s not like it was a waltz of a win. It was a tightly contested match and it could have gone either way so that’s tennis. There are no guarantees.”
How it all shakes out will be determined over the next few days but after Sunday’s championship Drljaca and Sheinin were saying all the right things.
“We need to put that aside and just move forward and think about the team and our goal now is to win the D-I Champion and that’s what we’re out to do,” Drljaca said. “I’m really excited. I can’t wait. I think we can do really well.
“…This is the individual tournament so this is just for me and then we have playoffs and that’s with the team aspect. Now we just have to move forward and play as a team.”
“The team states are coming up so we’ll be working together again so let’s see if we can do this,” Sheinin said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to put it behind us. We’ve been very friendly with each other in the past so hopefully we’ll be friendly again.”
The most important thing for the Avengers’ aces will be to put Sunday’s match behind them no matter who is playing where on the ladder.
For once again they are united for the same goal, a championship at the state’s highest level.

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