EPHS girls’ tennis team opens second half with playoffs in sight

Townies have rallied from a slow start to be in D-II postseason mix

By Mike Rego
Posted 9/30/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls’ tennis team embarked on the second half of its Division II regular season schedule in the thick of the playoff race, something the Townies …

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EPHS girls’ tennis team opens second half with playoffs in sight

Townies have rallied from a slow start to be in D-II postseason mix

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls’ tennis team embarked on the second half of its Division II regular season schedule in the thick of the playoff race, something the Townies were hoping would occur at the beginning of the fall, but something that didn’t seem likely after a 0-2 start.

EPHS, however, has won three of its last five matches following the opening losses and found itself holding one of the eight playoff spots as play began this week.

“We’re on game seven and we’ve already beaten our record from last year. It’s pretty cool,” said senior Skyla DaSilva, who teams with classmate Riley Mello to form E.P.’s top doubles tandem. “This year it honestly feels like we have an actual chance. Last year, we didn’t feel as strong of a team. But this year, we actually feel like we can do better.”

The Townies have shown marked improvement under the direction of first-year head coach Cory Duquette, who took a “back to the basics” approach with the team when they first gathered for practice late in the summer, focusing on fundamentals and conditioning.

“The girls have been really grinding these out,” Duquette said. “I’ve been telling them to take some off and look for their opponents’ weakness and that’s been going well. We have to find that happy medium of hitting hard and being defensive. I feel like a lot of our girls have learned to be defensive over the years, and I want them to be more offensive.

EPHS finished 2018 with just two league wins and was never in serious postseason contention. This fall, the vibe around the Townies is completely different according to returnees DaSilva and Mello, who entered the week with a 5-2 record as a pairing. Christina-Marie Capobianco, playing from the four spot, has the best individual record among the singles players at 6-1.

“The last couple of weeks have been really good,” DaSilva said. “Coach has really motivated us to do well. We’re doing a lot better than we did last year.”

Added Mello, “Overall, I think it really starts at practice. Coach let’s us know what we’re doing wrong right from the get-go, even from holding the racquet if we’re doing it wrong. He can tell by how we’re hitting ball, how it’s spinning, he can fix it right away. It’s really helpful. And as a team, everyone has improved a lot.

Duquette said he appreciates the attentiveness of his players, most of whom are upperclassmen and who have taken to his instruction nicely.

“They’ve been receiving it really well,” Duquette continued. “I suggest something and most of the time they’re taking that suggestion to heart. If I say hit to the backhand, they’re hitting to the backhand. And if I say attack that short ball, they’re attacking the short ball. So they’re really taking my suggestions to heart and it’s translating to the court, to the matches.”

The Townies are hopeful their efforts translate into more wins than losses in their last six matches, results which more than likely will mean East Providence qualifies for the D-II playoffs.

“I feel like we definitely have a chance to make it in, and I feel like we can compete with everyone. I feel like we have a good, strong chance,” said Mello.

It’s a sentiment shared by her coach.

“I totally think so,” Duquette said of the Townies’ postseason potential. “I think we compete with everyone. Every match we’ve lost, I feel like we’ve either had the opportunity to win or were close. There’s no team that I feel is a lot better than we are. They might have more technique and time on court than we have, but we’re very competitive.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.