WEST WARWICK- Tuesday evening’s Injury Fund meeting between the Wizards of West Warwick High School and the Oakers of Coventry felt more like a practice than a match. In some ways it was. Rather than focusing on recording a victory, both sides used the abbreviated match (won 2-0 by the Oakers) to further develop their still up and coming teams.
“I can’t really say that much. We’re still like chemistry-wise trying to get it together,” Coventry head coach Jonathan Bartlett said regarding his team’s current state. “Some players playing positions that they’ve never played before, so trying to get the top hitters on board and working on our side of the net for the main part,” he said of the mindset moving forward.
Traditionally one of the stronger teams in Division I, the Oakers enter the 2019 campaign looking to build off of a 2018 year that saw them make it to the semifinals before falling short against Hendricken.
With a largely younger roster, Bartlett felt that last season served as a promising stepping stone for the one that now awaits this year’s group.
“I was happy with how the guys did. We only had a couple of seniors last year on the team. This year we have a few more than that, so that’s going to be helpful. Lots of upperclassmen to lead the way, so we’ll see where it takes us.”
Among those upperclassmen are Troy Osterhout, Michele Picozzi, Chris Fernandez and Brendan McGrath, though there have yet to be any co-captains named.
“We haven’t even talked about that yet. We’re just working as a team right now. We’ll take a vote and go from there, but we still have a week until the season starts,” Bartlett said.
Featuring a more experienced team, as well as a visibly taller one, he hopes that his players put in the work to get back to the top.
“We have a decent amount of height, but we’re only as good as the amount of time the guys want to put in. Looking forward to the season, but at the same time, we have to keep working on our side of the net,” he said.
The Oakers open the season on the road next Tuesday against longtime rival South Kingstown.
On the other side of the net, the Division II Wizards come into the 2019 season following an early exit in the preliminary round of the playoffs last year, when they were swept by Classical, 3-0.
“This is quite a new group for us. A lot of young guys stepping up this year who I think are going to have good seasons,” head coach Josh Malloy said of the group he inherits this time around.
There was a reason he wanted his team to face a D-I squad to open up the year, even if the result didn’t count. The heightened competition should serve them well in the long run.
“We put ourselves against Coventry for a reason. They’re always a good, solid team. You saw some bad plays, you saw some good plays, but I think it will be, as far as D-II goes, a pretty solid year for us,” he said.
As for the team itself, Malloy is hoping that a core group of seniors who have been with the team for a number of years now, will help lead the way.
“Guys like Luke Flyntz, John Murphy, Kyle DaSilva and our setter Matt Bedard, they’re all integral parts of this team,” said Malloy. “They’re what makes us tick, they settle everybody down and the new guys, if they stay on board with what the seniors have started the past couple of years, it’s going to be a fun season.”
West Warwick open the year on April 3 against Cranston West.