KP Tennis Rebuild Comes Up Aces

Christopher Tremblay Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
July, 2018
Article Body: 

Having captured the Hockomock League’s Kelly Rex Championship last year and posting a 16-5 record, King Philip tennis coach Jim McGonigle was unsure of what his team would give him after losing his singles players from that season. Luckily for the coach, it really didn’t affect the Warrior squad.
“Coming into the year we had lost all three of our singles players and I really didn’t expect all that much,” McGonigle said. “I figured that it was going to be a rebuilding year but the kids really stepped it up and we finished 17-3 and won the Kelley Rex again.”
The 17-3 regular season record earned the KP racketeers a six seed in the Division 1 South Tournament. Unfortunately, the Warriors were upset in the first round by 11 seed Needham 5-0 and found themselves preparing for an early summer.
With no returning singles players, the KP coach was forced to shuffle around his lineup and find this year’s players. Junior Marco DiStefano, who had seen some time last year as a doubles player, earned the team’s number one spot, while freshman Nick Putney grabbed the second singles position and sophomore Jack Cannon found himself playing in the final singles spot.
Having his singles lineup set, the KP coach was still pessimistic about the upcoming season.
“Again, I thought that this was going to be a rebuilding process. Even after a few practices I was still not sure,” McGonigle said. “Once the season began and we started playing other schools I knew that we were in for something special this year; it was going to be much more than I originally thought.”
KP defeated Bishop Feehan 3-2 which surprised the coach, especially since the team was playing during April vacation with a lot of kids missing. The Warriors then went on to win at Mansfield and the coach’s pessimism soon turned into optimism.
DiStefano finished the year 10-8, but his record was not indicative of the way he played against some of the top talent playing first singles. Putney went 15-3 and Cannon was 14-3 during the regular season and both played solid tennis all year long.
While the singles players were doing their part, the doubles teams didn’t want to get left out. During the beginning of the season McGonigle was mixing and matching his players, trying to get the feel of his athletes. Eventually he settled on his two teams.
Senior Sean Desrochers and sophomore Nate Ihley formed the Warriors number one doubles team for most of the season and when they played together the tandem went 9-2. The second doubles team was comprised of Aidan Ignatius and Nick Ihley and they too, when playing together, put together a 9-2 record.
As the Warriors entered the tournament the KP coach was not all that thrilled with his match-up.
“We got a six seed, but getting Needham was a tough draw, if we got by them we got the number three seed Brookline,” he said. “Both teams are exceptional tennis schools. I know the tournament is luck of the draw, but I don’t think we were too lucky.”
Despite exiting the tournament after one match McGonigle is pleased with his team’s overall performance.
“We were a young team and I thought that the tournament was a possibility, but to go 17-3 we were playing with house money at that point,” the KP coach said. “Our depth carried us this season. We were solid all the way through from first singles to second doubles.”
After seeing what happened with this year’s squad, the KP coach is hoping that the team will step up once again come next spring. The majority of players will be back on the courts next season and while it could be the same lineup, things could change.
“We’ll be in the same boat as we were this year, a young team that will need to step up their game,” McGonigle said. “I’m hoping that in the off-season the kids look at what happened this year and realize that anyone could be playing and work hard to earn themselves a spot.”