PAWTUCKET — Sam Perry proved prophetic.
Smithfield’s girls tennis coach told his players at the start of the season the believed they had championship potential. The Sentinels weren’t among the top four seeds in the Interscholastic League Division II tournament bracket, but they believed.
Saturday afternoon at Slater Park served as the ultimate reward. Smithfield rode superior depth throughout its lineup to slip past Narragansett, 5-1, claiming the school’s first title since 2011 and sixth in the last 15 years.
“You’ve got to fight, and we had some obstacles,” Perry said. “But when you fight, the sky’s the limit. They played awesome and I’m so proud of them.”
The Sentinels swept all three doubles matches, winning at No. 1 and No. 3 within 30 seconds of one another while holding a 3-1 team lead. The top pairing of Elena Caliri and Victoria Richard and the third pairing of Caitlin Kelley and Olivia Lancellotta both had a legitimate claim to the clinching team point. It was Kelley and Lancellotta who actually took care of business first, posting a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) victory.
“We were down in the beginning,” Richard said. “We were a little down on ourselves. But we have a habit of picking it back up, so I’m glad we were able to do that.”
Smithfield ultimately led throughout on a sunny, breezy fall afternoon. Talia Lombardo powered to a 6-0, 6-1 victory at No. 3 singles and the team of Madison Bettencourt and Ashley Gagne closed out a 6-0, 7-5 triumph at No. 2 doubles to put a pair of team points on the board. The Mariners responded at No. 1 singles, as Leah Hart finished strong in a 7-5, 6-1 victory.
That left Smithfield watching the action at No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles after taking the first set in each. Caitlyn Cacador battled into a singles tiebreaker with Phoebe Hodnett before lofting a textbook backhand lob for a winner on match point. Kelley and Lancellotta closed out their match when a Narragansett forehand sailed beyond the baseline.
“It was really close and nerve-racking,” Cacador said. “I’m happy that I was able to get the last few points and watch my team finish the match.”
The Sentinels were leading in the deciding third set at No. 2 singles, with Amara Devine holding a 3-0 advantage. She joined the celebration after the action ended in the doubles ranks, and the socially-distanced trophy presentation was soon underway. The hugs and handshake lines of previous years were largely absent due to COVID-19 protocols, but Smithfield was no less thrilled with the result.
“I’m happy with my match,” Devine said. “I wish I got to finish it. I was up in the third set.
“But that’s OK. I'm glad we all won.”
Smithfield 5, Narragansett 1
Leah Hart, N, def. Erica Botelho, S, 7-5, 6-1; Talia Lombardo, S, def. Olivia Lonkart, N, 6-0, 6-1; Caitlyn Cacador, S, def. Phoebe Hodnett, N, 6-4, 7-6 (3); Elena Caliri-Victoria Richard, S, def. Shelby Lefoley-Emma Murphy, N, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Madison Bettencourt-Ashley.