In 2010, the Warwick Vets girls’ tennis team fielded a young squad and finished 2-10. Last year, with a veteran lineup, the ’Canes went 10-4 and earned a playoff berth.
As the 2012 season gets going, the ’Canes are somewhere between those two identities. They have veterans at the top, experienced doubles players who are new to singles and a host of players who are completely new to tennis rounding out the ladder.
It’ll make for an interesting season. The ’Canes hope it’s another positive one.
“We’ve got a real mix,” said head coach Brian Palazzo. “We have the returning players, but we have a lot of new players who are actually new to the sport. So it’s going to be a growing process for us. I would say we’re going to be in the mix.”
Leading the way for the ’Canes is junior Lauren Smith. She burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2010 and went undefeated at No. 3 singles. Last year, she moved up to No. 2 and went undefeated again.
This year, Smith will be playing No. 1 singles. It’ll be a bigger challenge, but Palazzo expects more success.
“Lauren Smith hasn’t lost a match in two years of varsity play,” Palazzo said. “She’s a quality player. She takes lessons year round. I’ve had other coaches say they can’t believe her power game. She hits the ball hard. That’ll win her a lot of matches and that’ll keep her in a lot of matches even if she does run against a player who might be slightly better than her.”
Senior Jamie Yates slots in behind Smith in the No. 2 spot. She played well at No. 3 singles a year ago and should give the ’Canes consistent points again this year.
“She’s a consistent player,” Palazzo said. “She’ll get to every ball and she returns everything. She battles. She went to a lot of three-set matches last year.”
While Smith and Yates give the ’Canes a strong top two, there isn’t another player on the team with significant singles experience. There’s potential, but it may take some time.
Seniors Olivia Roy, Tauri Sequeira and Thalia Rivera-Ortiz – all doubles players in the past – are in line to handle the bulk of the No. 3 and No. 4 singles duties.
“They have the experience of playing varsity tennis but never in a singles match,” Palazzo said. “It’s a learning process for them, playing singles and not having that other player to rely on.”
Whoever’s not playing singles out of that trio will help out on the doubles ladder. Seniors Joelle Nelson and Jennifer Salerno, who had some doubles success last year, are also back, giving the ’Canes strength at the top.
“With them, I expect consistent play,” Palazzo said. “They had a lot of success playing doubles last year. That’s going to be a strength for us, those first two doubles teams.”
The rest of the doubles ladder is still being hammered out, with all new players competing for time. The group includes Allison Carpenter, Allison Chace, Erin Maloney, Kiah Marcotte, Stephanie Racca and Amanda Reid.
It’ll take some time for the doubles teams to jell. With two of the singles players also learning as they go, the ’Canes might hit some bumps in the road. They’re 1-1 so far, with a 7-0 win over Hope and a 5-2 loss to Cranston East.
The ’Canes will be hoping to put things together quickly and start building for another solid season.
“Four teams make the playoffs,” Palazzo said. “Exeter, Coventry and Scituate are probably in the top three. Then it’s probably going to come down to us, Pilgrim and East for the fourth spot. When we play East and we play Pilgrim, those are almost going to be playoff-deciding matches. We have to play well.”