EAST GREENWICH – It was a tough draw for a team still trying to find its rhythm as the Prout girls tennis team travelled north to face East Greenwich last Thursday. The season’s struggles continued for the banged up and undermanned Crusaders squad as they took the courts against the top-ranked Avengers and were swept, 7-0.
“We’re missing four players,” said Prout coach Steven Matzner. “I told them on the bus just to compete as hard as they could knowing that’s the best team in the state.
“I said, ‘You need to compete on every point as hard as you can and be proud of your performance when you get off the court, that you did the best you could. That’s all I can ask of you.’”
With No. 1 singles player Ryan McGowan out injured, Talia Sweenor home with an illness, Cladia Gramlich and Sarah Motta absent, and Jessica Winward playing, but hampered by an ankle injury, not only were the Crusaders missing two of their top four players, but it was a completely reshuffled roster with a number of players playing out of position.
Katie Burke had the daunting task of stepping in for McGowan at the top of the singles ladder and taking on the state’s reigning individual champion in Aleksandra Drljaca. Burke fell to East’s No. 1 cleanly, 6-0, 6-0, while Grace Lambrecht suffered a similar fate for the Crusaders in the No. 2 singles spot.
Catherine Small took the first game of her match against EG’s Heather Shen at No. 3 singles and kept things close through the first five games, trailing just 3-2, but Shen did not lose another game from then on for the 6-2, 6-0 victory. Catherine Johnson also went down quickly in straight sets at No. 4 singles, 6-0, 6-1.
Despite her injury, Winward help put up Prout’s best fight of the day while paired with Hannah Shapiro at No. 1 doubles. After leading early, they just missed out on the first set, falling to Emma Falkenberry and Eleanor Fulghum 6-4. Things then fell apart in the second set as they lost 6-0 for another straight sets EG victory.
East wrapped up their seventh victory of the season by taking the No. 2 and 3 doubles matches from Jaqueline Joyal and Casey McGuirl, and Kerri Skinkle and Rachel Moody by 6-1, 6-0 scores.
Despite the lopsided loss and their sub-.500 record, not all hope is lost for the Crusaders this season. There is still time to turn their season around, and not only should their fortunes improve as the injuries begin to mend, but Matzner feels as though Prout has yet to put their best foot forward this season.
“I don’t think we’ve performed as well as we should have,” the coach said. “I don’t think the kids, overall, have played to their potential. I think they’re getting there, but right now they’re not there. If I can get everybody healthy, I think we have a shot to win several more matches.
“…I think they’re working hard, but I think we can do better. I think we can play a better brand of tennis than we’re playing.”
That turnaround, however, is going to have to happen soon for the Crusaders. Though Sweenor, Motta and Gramlich returned to the lineup for Friday’s match with South Kingstown, things did not get any better for Prout as they took their second straight 7-0 defeat to start the second half of their season.
The Crusaders will have another difficult draw today at 3:40 p.m. as they will take on Moses Brown.