PAWTUCKET – North Smithfield completed its rise from a two-win team in 2009 to the Division III state champion on Friday with a 4-3 comeback victory over Rogers.
No. 4 singles player Megan Mandeville scored the decisive team point, rallying to defeat Sydney Harris in three sets, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Mandeville trailed 3-0 in the third set before winning the final six games.
“We were behind in almost all of our matches today after the first set,” Northmen coach Jennifer Brodeur said. “I think we were a little nervous but I wasn’t worried because this team is notorious for playing (and winning) three-setters. They all knew they could win.”
Laura Arciniegas got the first team point for North Smithfield, winning at No. 1 singles by scores of 6-0, 6-1. Rogers won the next two singles matches in straight sets, and the Northmen kept pace by winning two of three doubles matches.
Brittany Walsh and Angelica Charbatji came through at No. 1 doubles for the Northmen, winning in three sets, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0. The Northmen also got a crucial win at No. 3 doubles from Stephanie Cope and Tiara Ahmed, who won by scores of 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).
As darkness started to fall on the Slater Park courts, all eyes turned to Mandeville’s match against Harris, who had provided the winning point in Rogers’ 4-3 victory over Ponaganset in the semifinals on Thursday.
This was the final match of the championship and players from both teams sat together on the adjacent court, rooting their teammate on.
Mandeville, described as one of the “crucial” players all season long by Brodeur, showed her composure after losing the first set, 6-1. She hung tough in the second set, taking a 7-5 victory, then fell behind 3-0 in the third set.
“I was just trying to stay focused and not get mad,” Mandeville said afterwards with tears in her eyes. “I got a lot of encouragement from my teammates and coaches.”
Mandeville, just a sophomore, kept hitting strong shots back at her opponent, moving around the court to run down Harris’s ground strokes and returning them with great precision.
Harris, who had been playing so well in the first three games of the final set, began to show her frustration, playing quickly, rushing her shots and taking little time between serves. She hit long on three of the match’s final four points.
All the while, a television cameraman stood 10 feet away from Harris, recording this moment for the evening news. Sometimes, the spotlight’s glare at the end of a playoff match can have an unnerving effect on a high school athlete.
That’s why Mandeville cited her own temperament as a key to victory.
Brodeur, in her first year as head coach at her alma mater, gave credit for the victory to long-time N.S. coach Natalie O’Brien, who turned the reins over to her former pupil this season.
“I think the great teamwork this team has comes from coach O’Brien,” Brodeur said. “She coached all of these girls. She was my coach in high school, too.”
The Northmen finished the season with an overall record of 18-1.
“It wasn’t my coaching,” Brodeur said with a smile. “These girls really showed a lot of teamwork all season long. They never gave up.”
North Smithfield 4, Rogers 3
Singles: Laura Arciniegas (NS) def. Glenna Druken 6-0, 6-1; Abby Preston ® def. Shannon Salome 6-1, 6-3; Ashley Morris ® def. Sarah Christie 6-2, 6-4; Megan Mandeville (NS) def. Sydney Harris 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Doubles: Brittany Walsh-Angelica Charbatji (NS) def. Sophia Walsh-Mikayla Circosta 3-6, 6-2, 6-0; Maggie Gomes-Krista Brouwer ® def. Melissa Denham-Rebecca Taylor 6-3, 7-6 (7-5); Stephanie Cope-Tiara Ahmed (NS) def. Hannah Casey-Jesennia Zamora 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).