PAWTUCKET – East Greenwich’s boys tennis team came into Division II number one with a bullet, and they ended their introductory season with an undefeated record and their first title in eight years.
“Our mantra all season,” EG head coach Marisa Salvadore said. “Sat Nam. Basically Gurmuki language meaning: find the truth within yourself. Stop with all the nonsense, outside stories or excuses of why a match may not be going your way.”
Things got a bit complicated near the winning point on Saturday at Slater Park, but the Avengers beat 2018 DII runners-up Lincoln for the second time this season, 4-1. EG got victories from all across their ranks to beat the No. 3 Lions and complete their 15-0 season (18-0 including the playoffs) – their second-most regular-season wins of all time and third unbeaten season.
It wasn’t a straight victory but a diverse one, with two singles winners and two doubles teams combining to make the winning formula. Junior Alex Sack made it 1-0 at No. 2 singles by beating Lincoln’s Dalia Suslovich, 6-2, 6-3. Freshman John Lange, defeated Stefan Minyayluk, 7-5, 6-1 at No. 4 singles to make it 3-1.
In between, EG senior Dan Sun and junior Anthony Morganti got done 6-2, 6-4 over on the No. 3 doubles’ court. The Lions made it a bit more interesting when Evan Voyer and Shan Zhong picked up a point against freshmen team of Jake Lehoullier and Jake Shunney in a tough 6-4, 6-1 match.
While senior Nils Fimmer at No. 3 singles, and freshman Troy Caron at No. 1 singles still had matches in play, EG’s top doubles team got it done. Juniors James Harwood and Alan Zhang beat Thomas Corcoran and Kevin Rao, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-2.
“The semifinals in Portsmouth was very challenging,” Salvadore said when asked what was the biggest challenge on the championship road. “Huge gusty winds prevailed for the first 75 minutes of play. Felt a little more like a home match for nearby Tiverton, who were extremely talented and former D-III champs in 2017.”
One freshman singles winner, a No. 2 singles is a junior, the winning doubles team is composed of two juniors, one half of the No. 3 doubles will be returning – a much-matured and skilled core of youngish underclassmen with some senior presence sprinkled in, this EG team seems like they could be a burgeoning dynasty.
It takes a lot to finish an undefeated season, and for a young team it takes a lot of growth.
“Focus,” Salvadore said about the key to sustaining perfection throughout a long, tough season. “Good news: success builds confidence. So nice for these young players to start their HS careers with success. Bad News: it can lead to overconfidence. So the challenge would be to stay focused and disciplined, because with each team win, the target on our back was getting bigger and bigger. We did not want to be the 2007 Patriots.”
“This year we worked on some meditation together and breathing exercises to handle the nerves in match play,” Salvadore continued. “All things being equal: it usually comes down to who can handle the pressure better. Meditation has helped us manage the Fight, Flight, or Freeze modes of response to stress. Still extremely challenging but it has given us some tools to work with.”
EG is a small school that fits better in DII, but even in DI they usually held their own on the tennis courts. In their most recent stint, they earned nine wins twice. EG was last champion of DII in 2011 when they went 16-0. They were 14-0 as Class C champs in 2001.
Salvadore has coached since 2012, and has a good perspective on the EG tennis program.
“EG tennis is alive and well,” Salvadore said. “I have always felt we belong in DI and were competitive in D1. Since about 2003, Larry Sack of SPOT Tennis has been introducing tennis to the elementary school kids through Enrichment Programs offered directly before or after school in the EG Elementary and Middle schools. In all my years there have only been a handful of players that come through EG varsity tennis that didn’t get their start with Larry in his school Enrichment Tennis Programs.”
“Each season we usually have one or two All State players,” Salvadore continued. “Due to the smaller population, and so many competing sports in the spring, we would sometimes lack in the needed depth through Doubles 3 for D1 competition with [baseball, lacrosse, tennis, golf, sailing, volleyball, and this year they added ultimate Frisbee].”