NORTH KINGSTOWN - They faced one another just two weeks ago in what would come to serve as a preview of a quarterfinal matchup in Division III tennis. On October 7, Pilgrim escaped Coventry with a 4-3 win, improving to 10-1 on the year at the time with just three matches left to be played before the postseason began, while the Oakers saw their record drop to 7-4.
At the time, Oaker head coach Tiffany Risch pointed to the likelihood that the two teams would see one another again in the not too distant future, a prediction that became a reality when Coventry (10-4) and Pilgrim (11-3) met at the neutral site of North Kingstown High School on Monday afternoon with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
With the October 7 meeting serving as a backdrop, a similar, yet slightly more disappointing result unfolded for the Oakers, as they came up short by a 4-2 score in what proved to be their final match of the season.
In the first meeting, the Patriots swept all four singles matches, while Coventry won all three doubles matches. The rematch featured certain areas of improvement for the Oakers, as they were able to snag a singles point for themselves, but had less success this time around in the doubles department.
“That was the tough part. We were trying to get the one singles point, which we did, but we didn’t the doubles points we wanted,” Risch said of the loss.
Emma Lemoi secured the lone singles point on the day for the Oakers, prevailing in the No. 3 slot over Alana Resendes, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3. The other three matches went to the Patriots, meaning they needed to win just one doubles contest to take the overall team match. Top singles player Jenna Gustafson defeated Ashley Carlson, 6-3, 6-2. Samantha Sheehan prevailed in three sets over Alex Brock, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, while Abigail Vest beat Grace Fernandes, 6-1, 6-3.
“In all, they gave it a good shot. It was a tough match we knew, going in,” Risch said of her team’s effort.
Sarah Bryson and Kayleigh Reeves kept Coventry’s slim hopes for a comeback alive with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win at second doubles over Mia Gustafson and Maeve Malloy, but a three-setter between the No. 1 doubles teams proved to be the final match of the day.
Bianna Smith and Isabella DeMelo held on for a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over Coventry’s Jess Koszela and Annie Webb. The win meant that the team match was officially over, which left the No. 3 doubles contest between Sarah Carter and Hailey Link of Pilgrim and Mei Sowers and Jackie Brodeur of Coventry incomplete, with the Patriots up 5-4 in the opening set at the time.
Pleased with the fact that her team put up a fight, Rich regarded the 2019 season as a positive one despite the early exit from the playoffs.
“The kids played really well all season. They have nothing to be ashamed of. They really gave it their all,” she said.
The top two singles players, Carlson and Brock, as well as Sowers will all be graduating in the spring, but Risch is optimistic about what the future holds for the program.
“We’ll be losing three seniors, but returning a pretty deep squad for next year,” she said, adding “We look forward to what we can do in the offseason and get ready for next year.”
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