NARRAGANSETT - With a new coach and a lot of new faces in the lineup, the Narragansett High School girls tennis team lost its first two matches of the year.
Since then, the Mariners have won two in a row, a sign of their potential and the improvement that’s making it come to life.
“It’s a very well-focused group,” head coach Allan Freedman said. “A lot of parent support. We’re 2-2 right now. No one is expecting a lot from us because we had so many people graduate, but I think we can surprise some teams, hopefully.”
Freedman takes over for Peter Barlow and brings a long resume to the courts, having coached for many years at the collegiate level with Johnson & Wales. He inherits a team that went 11-2 last season with a senior-heavy lineup. Most of this year’s ladder is up from the junior varsity squad.
“Seven of the players in the lineup from last year graduated, but it’s great to have a JV program,” Freedman said. “It’s like baseball with a farm team.”
For Freedman, it’s a fun opportunity to get back to the roots of teaching.
“College, the players of course are coming in with stronger backgrounds,” he said. “In high school, it’s a lot of instruction as well as coaching. You have to balance both – strategies and tactical skills with developing and evolving. You see more of that in high school, which is great.”
Leah and Danielle Hart, multi-sport standouts who have been on the ladder since their freshman year, are playing No. 1 and No. 2 singles while providing leadership for the young squad.
“They’re great athletes,” Freedman said.
Nicole Dougherty and Allie Shaw are in the third and fourth spots. On the doubles ladder, Olivia Lonkart and Emma Murphy are playing No. 1, Celia Durkin and Phoebe Hodnett are at No. 2, and Shelby LeFoley and Amelia Mushen are in the third spot.
“It’s fun to watch our doubles players,” Freedman said. “They’re in the developmental stage and just in a short period of time, they’ve improved. In the preseason, some of them didn’t really know how to volley, how to hold the racket, where to be on the court. Three weeks later, they’re doing it. It’s a great as a coach to see that. For me, that’s exciting.”
In Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Portsmouth, Narragansett picked up victories from the Hart twins and from the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles teams. Leah Hart came back from a loss in the first set at No. 1 single to win the next two 6-2, 6-4. Danielle Hart won 6-3, 6-1 at No. 2. Lonkart and Murphy posted a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles, while LeFoley and Mushen won 6-3, 6-4 at No. 3. The Mariners nearly picked up another win at No. 2 doubles, but Durkin and Hodnett were edged out in a third-set tiebreak.
The Mariners will return to the court today against Middletown.