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New EPHS softball coach’s debut is delayed, but not deterred

Kenahan’s prospective first season was cancelled due to COVID-19 crisis

By Mike Rego
Posted 6/10/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Around this time of year, if everything was as usual, and of course it isn’t, Katie Kenahan would likely be about to finish her first season as the East Providence High …

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New EPHS softball coach’s debut is delayed, but not deterred

Kenahan’s prospective first season was cancelled due to COVID-19 crisis

New East Providence High School softball coach Katie Kenahan (left) watches her former Riverside Middle School squad play a game last year. Kenahan was assisted at RMS by her mother Linda Gorton (standing) and Paul Mendence (right), who will also serve as her aides when the Townies return to action next spring.
New East Providence High School softball coach Katie Kenahan (left) watches her former Riverside Middle School squad play a game last year. Kenahan was assisted at RMS by her mother Linda Gorton (standing) and Paul Mendence (right), who will also serve as her aides when the Townies return to action next spring.
Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Around this time of year, if everything was as usual, and of course it isn’t, Katie Kenahan would likely be about to finish her first season as the East Providence High School softball team head coach by probably leading the Townies to yet another berth in the Division I state championship playoffs.

That seeming inevitability, however, was long ago left for naught. Sports at all levels, including for secondary schools this spring, were cancelled due to the lingering social distancing guidelines and gatherings limitations set because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenahan was slated to take over the EPHS program in time for the 2020 campaign in the stead of Rob Traverse, who retired from the position at the end of the 2019 season after two decades on the job.

Kenahan is known to some in the local sports community, having spent the last eight springs as the Riverside Middle School softball coach and the previous three winters as the Vikings’ girls’ hoops coach. She has been a teacher in the system for 11 years, including 10 at RMS where she is the Math Department coordinator. She also was the head softball coach at Deering (West Warwick) Middle School for three years. Kenahan is a West Warwick High grad, having played softball and basketball for the Wizards.

Kenahan said she had “great female role models” and learned “what it was like to be an effective coach” during her playing days, things she was hoping to provide to her team during her first season as the EPHS head coach.

“It probably goes back to when I played,” Kenahan added of her desire to take the job. “I had a really great experience playing in high school, and I was excited to bring that same atmosphere to the kids in East Providence.”

Kenahan will eventually and actually take over a program used to having success. The Townies have traditionally been in the upper tier of the D-I ranks and are perennial participants in the state championship playoffs.

“I’m grateful to be walking into a great program. What Rob has done over the years goes without saying. I’m excited about it. I know I have big shoes to fill. I’m not looking to replace Rob, but just to carry on the same level of excellence,” Kenahan said. “There is a wonderful pool of players. You can see they care for each other on and off the field. I was talking to Rob the other day and he said he could see I brought a different perspective to the program, but the same level of care. That made me feel really good.”

The onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing cancellation of spring sports delayed the start of Kenahan’s high school career, though, kiddingly, she said she was used to it. Traverse had often considered stepping aside in the years prior to last when he actually did.

“It was wildly disappointing to have the season cancelled, but I had been waiting to take over for a while,” Kenahan said of the current situation. “Rob and I had a running joke. He has been talking about retiring since his youngest daughter (Corrie) graduated (EPHS in 2016). He would say I’m thinking about hanging up towel this year, then he obviously didn’t retire. When it came up again last spring he was going to retire, I laughed, but then he did. He said it was time.”

Time is just about all Kenahan, her staff and players have at the moment. The 2020 season won’t happen, so those who are coming back for 2021 must persevere and hope for the best. Scott Breault, an EPHS Math teacher and the RMS boys’ basketball head coach, will serve as her top aide. Paul Mendence and Linda Gorton, Kenahan’s mother, will be volunteers.

“I’m really excited to get going eventually, but I’m very disappointed about this year. We’re all trying to stay positive. We celebrated our seniors the other day. I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Kenahan said. “Other than that, we’re just trying to keep the ball moving forward. Hopefully the kids coming back will get a chance to play over the summer, work on their skills and be ready for next season.

“If you ask any of my former players, they will tell you that we have a lot of fun. We laugh a lot. We spend a lot of time as a team making memories and carrying on silly team traditions. They will also tell you that we work really, really hard. It’s fun to compete and it’s even more fun to win. If you are going to dedicate that much time to doing something, you might as well do it to the best of your ability.

"I hold my players to a really high standard, like Rob did, which I have always seen them rise to, and I expect 100 percent every time they walk onto the field, whether it’s a practice or a game. I’m just really excited to continue on with such a great group of kids when we get the chance.”

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