Townies excitedly take to the girls' tennis court for 2020

Youthful EPHS group makes debut with COVID-19 mandates in place

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/11/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls' tennis team opened up its 2020 Division III regular season schedule late last week, October 2, with a 5-2 victory over understaffed …

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Townies excitedly take to the girls' tennis court for 2020

Youthful EPHS group makes debut with COVID-19 mandates in place


EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls' tennis team opened up its 2020 Division III regular season schedule late last week, October 2, with a 5-2 victory over understaffed neighbor Providence Country Day.

The Townies began the contest with a two point lead because the Knights did not have players to vie at the Nos. 2 and 3 doubles slots. The E.P. tandem of Jaelyn DaSilva-Emma Gilheeney defeated PCD's Ava Kooloian-Rachel Papineau by the scores of 6-2, 6-3 at the first position to earn the lone point from the pairings.

In singles, Townies' No. 1 Raissa Luu recorded a straight set win over the Knights' Javia Hamel, 4-and-3. Likewise, E.P.'s Wendy Carvalho, competing at singles for the first time, was a 7-5, 7-5 winner over Iris Petrillo at the four position.

In between, PCD picked up its two points. Caroline Demetrakas beat Houn Kim, 3-and-2, at No. 2 while Marguerite Cozzone went the distance as she rallied to defeat Bree Riel by the scores of 3-6, 6-3 and 6-2.

The match was contested under the Rhode Island Interscholastic League's new COVID-19 guidelines, which included among other health and safety restrictions each player using her own can of balls, only contacting balls with a player's racquet and no handshakes.

The victory was a nice start to a season that has already been delayed and shortened because of the coronavirus. EPHS, which dropped a division after realignment of girls' tennis earlier this calendar year, will play just six regular season contests this fall rather than the usual 12-14. And at the behest of the RIIL, the Townies and most other fall sports teams will only play matches on the weekend, reserving weekdays for preparation and instruction.

That might actually be to the benefit of a rather youthful EPHS squad, according to second year head coach Cory Duquette, whose Townies went 4-9 in Division II during his first season.

Just two of the 10 players to earn spots on the opening match ladder actually saw meaningful action last year.

Three returnees are among the four singles players. Luu, a senior and four-year starter, is the most experienced player. She has risen to the top of the EPHS ladder. Kim, who saw limited playing time previously, and Riel are juniors. Riel is one of a couple of Townies who decided to play tennis after the volleyball season was postponed to a spot between the winter and spring seasons next year. Carvalho is also a senior, who was half of E.P.'s No. 3 doubles pairing last fall.

"We have a solid No. 1 in Raissa. She knows how to play, how to win, which is great," Duquette said. "No. 2 is Houn. She's a fighter. She hits hard. At three, Bree is an all-around athlete. She picked up tennis super quickly. It's her first time ever playing and she's already three singles, and she's only going to get better. And four is Wendy. She's improved so much since last year. She worked her way up to singles. She's a feisty competitor."

Atop the doubles groupings, DaSilva-Gilheeney are sophomores who earned their way into the lineup after not seeing any action a year ago. Isabella Hurley, a freshman, and Olivia Pannone, a sophomore, are the No. 2 team. Katelyn Furtado, a sophomore, and Elke Jones, a junior who like Riel is a usually a volleyball player at this time of year, compose the third tandem.

"Jaelyn and Emma were freshmen last year and didn't play. They've come a long way since last year. I'm really excited to see them compete. I think they'll do really well," said Duquette.

He continued, "So far we've had an amazing preseason, a lot of practicing. We have a lot of new girls who have never played tennis before and they're picking it up really well."

Considering all the factors surrounding 2020, including the unexpected departure of junior and likely No. 1 singles player Jessica Normile who moved out of state in the offseason, Duquette said he's hoping his team simply enjoys competing and gains valuable experience this fall.

"Honestly, coming from last year, and I said it before, this is a rebuilding year. So I'm excited that most of my starters are going to be around for a while and have a chance to improve," he said. "I think we can have a solid team the next couple of years. And that's not to take anything away from the players out there right now. But I just want them to go out there and have fun, learn and get better."

As for COVID-19, the coach said it's going to be an adjustment to learn some of the health and safety protocols put in place, but he and his players are just grateful to take the court.

"With tennis, it hasn't been terrible. Tennis is very much a socially distance sport to begin with," Duquette added. "There's certain things that have changed, like the girls have to do a screener (test) every day. With matches, you can only use the balls that you bring. Some of the rules, it's going to be a learning curve, but I think they'll be fine. No one has been sick so far, which is great. Knock on wood, hopefully it stays that way."

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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.