Last year was the Toll Gate girls’ tennis team’s fifth consecutive winning season, but for all the Titans’ regular season success, it hasn’t translated into the postseason.
In each of those seasons, Toll Gate has failed to win a single playoff match. As the No. 4 seed last season, the Titans fell to fifth-seeded Providence Country Day.
The 2013 team, though, has the potential to put all those shortcomings in the past.
Toll Gate should be one of Division II’s best.
On the heels of last year’s 9-3 mark, the Titans are already 3-0 this year and haven’t lost an individual match. They have 7-0 victories over Chariho, Ponaganset and PCD, and they were scheduled to play defending champion Portsmouth on Wednesday, with the results unavailable at press time.
With almost the entire team back in the fold from last year, plus a couple of important newcomers, the Titans’ ceiling is as high as it’s been during its recent run of success.
“I think we’re going to be better because some other teams may have lost some seniors and I didn’t really lose a lot of ground,” said second-year head coach Gary Gorman.
Toll Gate graduated three contributors from last year: Chloe Underwood, Rachel Deschenes and Leona Chau. Yet, its depth – especially on the singles ladder – is still a strength.
Playing No. 4 singles is senior Mackenzie Kelly, who played No. 1 last year and had a steady season in the top spot. She was defeated in a few ladder matches in the preseason this year, however, so she’s a little bit further down the team’s lineup than in the past.
But with her talent, she’s also an asset in that position.
“She’s killing everybody right now,” Gorman said. “But not every match is easy.”
Taking over Kelly’s old role at No. 1 is sophomore Caroline Waggoner. Waggoner played No. 1 doubles last year, but improved after putting in quite a bit of time during the summer.
“She played all summer,” Gorman said. “She really improved. She’s hitting the ball pretty darn good.”
Junior Arianna Rizzo is playing No. 2 singles, while junior Schuyler Teneyck is playing No. 3. Rizzo and Teneyck’s spots in the lineup were flipped last season.
In doubles, junior Jenn Schaad is back in her spot after playing No. 1 doubles last season, and senior Jackie Falso is up from two doubles to replace Underwood.
At two doubles, Toll Gate’s newcomers come into play. Freshman Laurel Teneyck, the sister of Schuyler, is stepping in at one of the spots.
“She’s a good player,” Gorman said. “She came right into the lineup right away.”
Playing alongside her, when healthy, is junior Abby Ellis, who came out for the team for the first time. Ellis is a standout hockey player for the Titans, but she suffered a hip flexor injury this past weekend and is currently sidelined for a few weeks.
“She’s going to be a good player if she gets back in the lineup,” Gorman said. “She’ll be crucial when it comes to playoffs. She’s a good athlete.”
In the interim, junior Anna-Rose Pearson is stepping in at two doubles. Pearson traditionally plays No. 3 with Rose Kaczmarek.
Up and down the lineup, Toll Gate feels pretty good.
“It’s a good team,” Gorman said. “Good attitude, girls are enjoying it, I’m enjoying it. They’re motivated.”
A lot of how it all shakes out will depend on how some of the division’s other teams are coming together, but Gorman still likes his group’s chances, especially after its hot start.
“I’d say it’s between us, probably Narragansett and Westerly, maybe Classical,” he said.
All Toll Gate can do is try to keep winning, and when the playoffs come around, perhaps the Titans will find themselves in position to break their recent string of postseason defeats.
Their next match is Friday at home against 2-1 North Providence at 4 p.m.
“If I can get Abby back, we’re going to be right there in the end I think,” Gorman said.