It’s a new start for the Pilgrim tennis team in 2013. Only one player returns from last year, and Chad Tvenstrup is taking over as head coach. Most of the players in uniform are picking up a racket for the first time.
But on the bright side for the Pats, the new start has also been an exciting start.
“Two words – enthusiastic and inexperienced,” Tvenstrup said. “I have one returning player. The rest of the girls are new to the game of tennis. But I love working with these girls. It’s great. They’re here every day. They try hard. That’s the positive thing.”
It may be a struggle in terms of wins and losses – Pilgrim went 4-10 last year even with a big group of seniors – but the positive attitude should set the stage for improvement. That was the focus as the Pats took the court for their season opener last week.
“We’ve been working hard on the basics, and they’re having some fun,” Tvenstrup said. “We want to get better. That’s our goal. We’re not going to get frustrated because every match, we’re playing girls who are much more experienced than we are. We’re not looking at the match scores. We want to be able to compete, get better, get our serves in, hit some good shots – and move on from there.”
Tvenstrup is the head hockey coach at Pilgrim and is taking on tennis to help keep the program alive. Graduating eight players from an already small team is no easy thing to recover from, and Pilgrim wouldn’t have been the first Warwick tennis team to disband. Warwick Vets went one season without boys’ tennis because of extremely low numbers.
Instead, the Pats have welcomed in 10 new players and they should be able to field a full lineup throughout the season, once everyone has the required number of practices under their belt.
“It’s a good mix,” Tvenstrup said. “We have six freshmen. We keep adding girls to get the interest up.”
Leading the way for the Pats is junior Erin Isherwood, the lone returning player. She was voted a captain by her teammates and she’ll play No. 1 singles.
“Erin has done a great job so far,” Tvenstrup said. “She’s a junior and even the seniors voted her captain.”
Senior Jazeon Johnson is currently in the second singles spot, with senior Kim Shum playing No. 3 singles. Junior Drisanna Watson is at No. 4.
The doubles lineup has freshman Shannon Johnson and freshman Makenzie Grover playing No. 1 for now, with senior Kimmie Lavoie and freshman Gabrielle Young playing at No. 2. Gabby Savard, Kayla Moorby and Elizabeth Smith will also be in the mix.
For everybody in the lineup, the positive attitude hasn’t wavered yet. It’s just an uphill battle on the court.
“I love working with these girls,” Tvenstrup said. “They’re just so far behind the curve in terms of the game. Even in Division III, you get at least half the team that knows how to play tennis. We’re not there yet.”
Tvenstrup hopes the big freshman class sticks together and builds the program up as they climb the ranks.
“It’ll be good to work with the girls who are underclassmen,” he said. “We know we’ll get them back next year and they’re going to be that much more experienced. You can build on that.”
For now, it’s about taking steps in the right direction. Pilgrim went 0-3 out of the gate, which wasn’t unexpected. The Pats hope they’re on the right path.
“We’ve got to take one day at a time, work on some different things and try to get them to learn the skills,” Tvenstrup said. “Then we can start talking about the other stuff you talk about after you’ve been playing the game for a while. I told them, ‘The learning curve is going to be steep. You’re going to see a lot of improvement from one end of the season to the other if you come to practice every day and you work hard.’”