The Bishop Hendricken tennis team advanced all the way the state finals this spring, where it fell to perennial power South Kingstown.
And with the loss, the Hawks had to say goodbye to a senior class led by Nick Walsh, the team’s No.1 player for the past two years.
With Hendricken regularly advancing deep into the playoffs, it was Walsh who has provided stability at the top of the ladder and morphed from a doubles player his freshman year and No. 3 singles player his sophomore year into one of the best players in the state over the last two years.
He went 17-5 this season, and advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament before falling to eventual champion Jared Donaldson.
“His record speaks for itself,” Hendricken head coach Michael Haxton said. “He was great.”
Walsh beat up on nearly every opponent he faced. It was only the three players ranked ahead of him his senior year – Donaldson, Smithfield’s Matt Kuhar and South Kingstown’s Tim Puterio – plus North Kingstown’s former No. 1 player Dan Hansen, who were able to beat him during his last two seasons.
Rarely did anyone else come close.
“He was the fourth best kid in the state,” Haxton said. “The only guys he couldn’t beat were Kuhar, Puterio and Donaldson.”
Donaldson, who is home-schooled, is one of the top ranked junior tennis players in the country, and was an unknown in the high school state ranks until deciding to play for Ponaganset late this spring.
That put Walsh in a tough situation, having to go up against Donaldson in the semis. But against a player who may turn out to be a future professional, Walsh was able to steal a game in the first set.
It may not seem like much on the surface, but it was something that few players in the state could have done.
“He had nothing to lose, and he knew it,” Haxton said. “I said, see how many games you can get off him.’ When he got that game, I said that was the goal. He didn’t get bageled and bageled, and there aren’t too many kids who can do that.”