PAWTUCKET—Sunday’s RIIL State Singles Championship between Peri Sheinin and Aleksandra Drljaca was about as entertaining of a girls tennis match as you’ll see.
Each game highly contested and each point earned.
“We’re really great players,” Drljaca said. “We both have a lot of tournament experience. A high level of intensity was really seen and it was a great match.”
For as entertaining as the level of play was though there was also an unmistakable sense of awkwardness both on the court and in the crowd.
Both Drljaca and Sheinin had fought for the same thing all season; wins both on an individual and team level.
All the while fans of the EG girls tennis team had cheered for both alike, as each fought for the same goal of team success.
Yet there they were Sunday, undeniably the two best players in the state going head to head with their own personal goals completely at odds.
“At times [it was awkward],” Sheinin said, “[but] there was just a ball coming over the net so if I focused on anything else then the result wouldn’t have been this.
“She’s a teammate, obviously she’s a friend and she’s a great, nice kid and she’s a big member of the team. I told myself it’s not going to be easy and I just have to stay focused.”
For East Greenwich coach Marc Brocato – who abstained from helping either player out during the match – the experience was almost unbearable.
“I turned to my assistant Rob and I said, ‘I really thought I was going to enjoy it but actually I hated it,’” Brocato said. “It was awful to sit there and watch it because as much joy as you get in winning seeing somebody lose takes away some of it too.”
“It was bittersweet obviously. I’m so happy for Peri but you feel for your teammate as well so it’s a really difficult situation to be in.”
During the match it was unmistakable how uncomfortable the match was for Brocato, as all he could do is watch as the players went out on their own accord.
“You kind of watch the whole thing play out and it was almost surreal to see the whole thing. I liked the scenario but I hated the situation,” Brocato said. “The scenario was we were going to have two kids in the final but the situation was the two kids have to play each other and somebody has to lose.”
The match played out as expected in the first set – going to a tiebreaker – before Sheinin closed things out in the second and when it was all said and done Brocato did the only thing he could do.
“I congratulated Peri and I think Aleks handled herself like a champion out there,” Brocato said. “She wasn’t going to go down out there without a fight and she certainly didn’t.”
If everything goes according to plan, they’ll both be champions before the season ends.