The newcomers on the 2013 Warwick Vets tennis team were newer than most. When the Hurricanes took the court, they were coming off a one-year hiatus after low numbers forced the cancellation of the 2012 season. They had no idea what to expect and struggled through a winless season.
Those newcomers have a year under their belt now. They’ve seen the Division III landscape, they know what it takes to win, and they’re ready to do it.
“Overall the goal is to have a .500 season,” said head coach Dan Robinson. “The kids were pretty adamant about that. They felt after last year, seeing the competition, they felt they could compete.”
The experience gap may still keep the ’Canes from being contenders, but a solid season would represent a big step. That kind of year has been hard to come by. Vets’ last victory was in 2010.
The current squad is hoping it can break through, with the returning players at the top of the singles lineup representing the biggest reasons for optimism.
Junior Andrew Falaguerra is back at No. 1 singles after playing there all last year and senior Kyle Morrissette is moving to the No. 2 singles spot after playing on the singles ladder last year. Those two are serving as captains along with junior Trent Mochel, who will move up from doubles to play No. 3 singles.
“There’s some experience for the singles, so that’s a good thing,” Robinson. “If we’re going to win some matches, we’re going to be relying on the singles players to do it. I’m hoping with a year under their belt, they can find some success.”
Falaguerra took lessons in the off-season and is hoping they pay off.
“He’s improved his game a lot,” Robinson said.
Morrissette was new to tennis last year but is a three-sport athlete, and he improved at a fast rate.
“He’s a pure athlete so he improves quicker than some of the guys,” Robinson.
Mochel is in the third spot and junior exchange student Andrea Panzeri has grabbed the No. 4 singles spot.
Junior Gabriel Shaker was expected back to anchor the doubles ladder but he’s battling an ankle injury. For now, sophomores Matt Smith and Mark Russo have a hold on the top spot, but everything else is up the air. Freshmen Noah Rodriguez and Brandon Peters played No. 2 in last week’s season opener, with freshman Aidan Mochel and Tyler Isherwood behind them. Sophomore Joseph Sepulveda is also on the roster.
“We’ve only got one senior and a lot of the guys are freshmen and sophomores who haven’t played tennis before,” Robinson said. “They’re learning. We just have to get them up to speed.”
The good news is that the numbers have been steady for two years now, and with so many underclassmen, there’s potential to lay the groundwork for the future.
“I have another year with pretty much everybody,” Robinson said. “So we have a foundation.”
Vets lost its opener by a 7-0 score to St. Raphael, who’s expected to be one of the top teams in the league. Against more comparable teams, Vets is hoping to hold its own.
“I’m hoping West Warwick, Coventry, Tiverton – those are teams we could have a good shot against,” Robinson said. “Hopefully we can do it.”
Vets will return to action today when it visits North Providence at 3 p.m.