The Ponaganset High School boys tennis team set the tone from the beginning of the season and kept it up throughout. The Chieftains won all nine league matches and the best an opponent could manage in any match was two points.
Ponaganset then steamrolled No. 8-seeded East Providence, 4-0, in the quarterfinals and No. 4-seeded Portsmouth, 4-0, in the semifinals. On Saturday morning at Slater Park, the Chieftains completed their perfect season and won their first-ever boys tennis title as they downed Burrillville, 4-0, in the Division III championship match.
“From the first match, we knew that we were going to do good,” Ponaganset senior Tristin Williams said. “We felt like we were playing at the next level all year.
“My freshman and sophomore year, we got first-round exits, so this year it was good to finish it off as a senior. It was amazing, super good.
It was a new experience for the players as well as for Ponaganset coach Kara Van Zyl.
“I’ve never coached boys before,” Van Zyl said. “I’m the assistant for the girls team so I wasn’t sure about the boys.
“But we had 12 amazing boys and, no matter where they played in the lineup, they were happy to play. After day one of practice, I knew we had something special. I think this is the first time they’ve gone undefeated, 12-0 all the way.
Burrillville and Westerly were the lone teams to score two points against the Chieftains during the regular season but the Chieftains weren’t about to take their foot off the gas with a championship on the line.
“We’ve played Burrillville before and they’re great opponents,” Van Zyl said. “Our boys have been preparing for it. We knew what we needed to work on from our last match with them.
They’re just so laser-focused on what they need to do. They take the initiative and they know what they need to work on. So they were ready to go out there today and we expected it to be as quick as it was.”
The match ended in slightly less than an hour. Ponaganset players won the first set in six of the seven matches and then it was just a matter of who would be the first four to finish off an opponent.
Ponaganset freshman Josh Steere was the first to nab a team point as he closed out his No. 1 singles match, 6-1, 6-1. The Chieftains’ No. 3 tandem of Brady Printer and Doug Baima were next with a 6-0, 6-1 victory. Then, on side-by-side courts, Ponaganset senior Elijah Gouin won his No. 3 singles match, 6-1, 6-0, and teammate Ethan Clegg recorded the match-clinching point with a 6-0, 6-1 victory at No. 2 singles.
“Tennis doesn’t always get the recognition it should,” Van Zyl said. “It’s not one of those higher sports. So these boys are finally getting the recognition they deserve because they’ve worked so hard during the season.
“To just see how happy they are, to see how far they’ve come from day one. Getting back out on the court after COVID, a year off to where they are today they’ve made huge strides.”
Ponaganset 4, Burrillville 0
Josh Steere, P, def. Ben Hayden, 6-1, 6-1; Ethan Clegg, P, def. Brady Tupper, 6-0, 6-1; Elijah Gouin, P, def. Riley Chamberlin, 6-1, 6-0; Isaac Roe, P, vs. Jeff Cabral did not finish; Tristin Williams and Kyle O’Connor, P, vs. Matt LaSata and Abigail McNamara did not finish; Jack Ferns and Lukas Gouin, P, vs. Reid Morin and Rihanna Morin did not finish; Brady Printer and Doug Baima, P, def. Brielle Ducharme and Samantha Foster, 6-0, 6-1.