PAWTUCKET --- Ponaganset put the exclamation point on a perfect season on Saturday morning at Slater Park, winning the Division III state title in the same determined fashion that has marked the Chieftains’ play over the past two months.
“We’re on Cloud Nine right now,” Ponaganset coach Jamie LaRose said after her squad blanked Scituate 4-0 in a match that took only 70 minutes to complete. “This has absolutely been an unbelievable season.”
Ponaganset compiled a 14-0 record during the regular season, losing only nine team points along the way. The Chieftains shut out six opponents along the way, and won every other match 6-1 except for a 5-2 victory over Cranston East on Oct. 3.
Ponaganset blanked Tiverton 4-0 in the semifinals, proving it could play well as the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up, as it always seems to do during playoff season in late October.
“We had several players go undefeated in our division,” LaRose said, ticking off the names of singles stars Sadie Campanella, Julie Keedy and Nadia Dionne along with the No. 1 and 2 doubles duos of Halley Martin-Lina Mansolillo and Marisa Harding-Kate Fusco.
Keedy and Dionne made short work of their opponents in the state final on Saturday, winning in straight sets. Needing only four points to clinch the victory, the Chieftains got them from Martin-Mansolillo and their No. 3 doubles team of Jacklyn Smith and Samantha Sollecito.
Campanella won her first set at No. 1 singles and was battling in the second set when Ponaganset clinched the victory, terminating all matches still going on. At No. 2 singles, Vera Dionne was tied at 1-1. Harding and Fusco were also tied 1-1 at No. 2 doubles.
“Ponaganset is just a deep and talented team,” Scituate coach Carlo Catucci admitted. “We won a few games against them today. It’s just tough to put a dent in them.”
LaRose graduates only two seniors who played a lot this season – Keedy and Fusco.
“We have five seniors on our squad,” she said. (Mary Arnold, Sierra Ferland and Haley Glasko were valuable practice players for Ponaganset.)
There is a strong family atmosphere to the Ponaganset High girls tennis program.
“My mother (Kathy Hazard) started the program,” LaRose said. “I played for the team and graduated in 1999. This is my second year as head coach. Last year, we lost in the semifinals of the playoffs. I had my fingers crossed this year because you never know what can happen in tennis. I’m really proud of what the team accomplished this season.”
Next year, Ponaganset will likely move up a division, which will present another challenge for the deep roster of returning players.
“We have a lot of really talented sophomores and juniors on our team,” LaRose added. “Hopefully next year we can move up to Division II and keep it going.”