PROVIDENCE – After being stunned in the Division II finals last year by Cumberland High, the Mount Saint Charles Academy boys’ tennis team, with almost its entire lineup back from last spring, finally pulled off an undefeated season with a 4-0 victory over Smithfield High in the D-II championship match last Saturday afternoon at Brown University.
The Mounties had been 10-0 during last spring’s shortened season before narrowly losing to the Clippers, 4-3, in the finals at Slater Park. This year, it looked like the finals would be a rematch, as Mount finished the regular season with a 14-0 record, and the Clippers were the second seed with a 12-2 mark.
But third-seeded Smithfield, which shared the same record as the Clippers, ruined the rematch by defeating Cumberland in the semifinals last Thursday night at Tucker Field, 4-2.
That victory brought about another interesting aspect to the finals. First-year Mount head coach Evelyn Miller, a Smithfield High alum and a former girls’ tennis player, faced off against Smithfield head coach Julie Reddy, who was her former teammate on the Sentinels.
Despite the loss, Reddy was happy that her team had gotten to the finals.
“I knew it would be a tough match, but I’m extremely proud,” she said. “They’ve had a really good season. I honestly couldn’t be prouder of them. It was a tough day today, but hopefully, we’ll be back next year.”
This spring, the Slater Park courts were being renovated and unavailable for the playoffs, so the finals were held at Brown’s courts next to the softball and baseball fields, giving off a different vibe.
With the bleachers and crowd above the courts, the match offered more of a professional setting. There were eight courts, but they were separated with two courts together and high black fences.
The first and second doubles teams for Mount sealed the victory, as the number two team of Nick DiMino and Nick Zinno beat Smithfield’s Jake Gulino and Andrew Kelley, 6-0, 6-1. And as those players were exiting the courts, play was suspended as Mount’s number one squad of Adrian DiMino and Nick Rave defeated Alex Nardolillo and Lucas Swieard, 6-0, 6-3.
Playing on the center courts at number three singles, Michael Burke started the match off right for the Mounties and swept the Sentinels’ Matthew Kane, 6-0, 6-0.
The next match to finish was number two singles, as Mount’s Matt Zinno beat Alex Leonard, 6-1, 6-2.
As the doubles matches were going on at the other end of the courts, the number one singles match was still drawing attention, as Smithfield’s Aidan Fair heavily battled Mount’s Ted Bielecki. Fair started off strong and held a 3-2 lead before Bielecki turned it on and came back to win the first set, 6-4.
In the number four singles match that was also suspended, Mount sophomore Peter Burke took the first set, but Smithfield’s Owen Geller was fighting back in the second. In number three doubles, Mount’s Jack Ellis and Sebastian Iacuone posted a 7-5 win in the first set.
The Sentinels, who were appearing in a championship match since 2016, when they reached the state finals, will graduate just one senior, Kelley, so they hope to put together another strong season next year.
“Honestly, all of them have surprised me,” Reddy said of her players. “I think they’ve all had a match where they’ve come through when we really needed them to at each position. I tell them everyday how important each position is, from number one singles to number three doubles.”