Smithfield girls' tennis squad returns to glory, wins D-II title

Smithfield girls' tennis squad returns to glory, wins D-II title

The members of the Smithfield High girls’ tennis team, shown posing for a picture with their Division II championship plaque after last Saturday afternoon’s 5-1 victory over Narragansett High at Slater Park, are, in front from left, seniors Elena Caliri, Caitlyn Cacador, Tori Richard, Amara Devine, and Talia Lombardo; in back, head coach Sam Perry, Ashley Gagner, Caitlin Kelley, Olivia Lancellotta, Madison Bettencourt, Erica Botelho, Olivia Bilotti, and assistant coaches Tony Torregrossa and Meghan Kiernan. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Sentinels stun top-seeded Patriots in semis, sink Mariners in championship match for first championship since 2011

PAWTUCKET – The Smithfield High girls’ tennis team’s nearly decade-long wait to win a championship is over.

Back in Division II for the first time since 2011, and adjusting to the shortened COVID-19 season and its challenges, the Sentinels were the last ones standing on Slater Park’s courts last Saturday afternoon, as they netted a 5-1 victory over Narragansett in a title match that featured the bottom two seeds.

The championship was the Sentinels’ first since that 2011 season, which saw them win their third title in a row and post their second straight undefeated campaign before getting promoted to D-I. The title was also the seventh in the program’s history, and it marked the first time Smithfield won a championship seeded as low as fifth.

“I told these girls from the moment they started this year, ‘You have a shot to go all the way, but you have to fight,’” Smithfield head coach Sam Perry said. “’We had some obstacles, but when you fight, the sky’s the limit. They played awesome and I’m so proud of them.”

Perry added that it was an extremely hard season, and like most teams in the state, Smithfield had some COVID-19 issues as well, but Perry kept telling his players to fight because he knew they could go all the way.

And Smithfield showed plenty of fight in playing sixth-seeded Narragansett. Normally, play is suspended in a postseason match once a team captures four matches, but Smithfield’s first and third doubles teams wrapped up their victories almost seconds apart from each other.

As the third doubles team of Caitlin Kelley and Olivia Lancellotta began to celebrate its close 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) victory over Calla Reardon and Marissa Lefoley, the first doubles squad of Victoria Richard and Elena Caliri wrapped up its 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Shelby Lefoley and Emma Murphy, and that prompted the Sentinels watching nearby to rush the court and celebrate.

“I’m really happy we were able to come back,” added Richard, who along with Amara Devine and Caitlyn Cacador, are the team’s senior captains. “We were down pretty hard in the first set, but we came back in the second set and kind of took that momentum into the third.”

Talia Lombardo won the first match of the day for Smithfield in third singles by posting a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Olivia Lonkart, and the second doubles squad of Madison Bettencourt and Ashley Gagner doubled the Sentinels’ lead by taking its match, 6-0, 7-5.

“I love my doubles teams this year,” Perry said. “My one, two, and three (teams) are so strong. One and two are equally skilled; I have them play each other in matches in practice and they are even.”

The Mariners picked up their lone victory at first singles when Leah Hart defeated Erica Botelho, 7-5, 6-1, but Cacador got that win back in fourth singles by defeating Phoebe Hodnett, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Despite seeing her team ahead by a 3-1 score, “it was still a close match,” Cacador said, “but I was happy that our doubles won and pulled through.”

The only match that was suspended was the second singles match between Devine and Narragansett’s Danielle Hart, “but I’m happy with my match,” Devine said. “I wish I got to finish it; I was up in the third set, but I’m glad we all won though.”

Last Saturday’s win was the fifth in a row for the Sentinels, who wrap up their season with a 7-2 record, and included in that string of victories was their 4-0 triumph over 4th-seeded Mount Hope on Nov. 10 in the quarterfinals and a 4-1 victory over top-seeded Portsmouth in the next day’s semifinals.

In the win over the Patriots, who went 6-0 during the regular season, Portsmouth owned a 1-0 lead, but Botelho tied the score by winning her first-singles match. After Smithfield claimed the first and second doubles matches, Devine clinched the victory with a three-set win at second singles.

Smithfield senior tri-captain Caitlyn Cacador serves the ball to her opponent during her fourth singles match at last Saturday afternoon’s Division II finals at Slater Park. Cacador posted a 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory to give the Sentinels a 3-1 lead and move them one win away from their championship.
The players on the Smithfield High girls’ tennis team storm the court to celebrate their 5-1 victory over Narragansett High in last Saturday afternoon’s Division II championship match at Slater Park. The title was the Sentinels’ first since 2011 and seventh in their program’s history.
Smithfield senior Talia Lombardo, shown returning a serve in her third singles match, picked up the first win of the match by cruising to a 6-0, 6-1 victory.