Sam Baines on winning NK high school tennis squad
The North Kingstown boys' tennis team would like to repeat the state championship seasons they have had for the past two years, but a division change is going to make the competition a little stiffer for the Skippers this year.
The team moved from Division II up to Division I and they will now have to upset power houses South Kingstown and Bishop Hendricken if they hope to stay on top, but coach Lisa Vinacco said she feels her team is up to the challenge.
"We were 15-0 last year, but that does not mean that we didn't face any competition. The south division is the strongest of Div. II and that is the division we were in," Vinacco explained.
"East Greenwich and Westerly both have very strong teams and we had to beat them three times each to win the championship," she continued.
Vinacco describes her team as relatively young, but over half of the players are returning members of last year's varsity team.
Sam Baines is the sole freshman representative on the varsity team and he is also the only Jamestown resident. He is the younger brother of Leah Baines, a singles player on the girls' tennis team.
Baines immediately caught Vinacco's attention, and has earned a spot as one of four singles players.
"Very early in tryouts I knew that he was going to be a singles player, so I put him in a workout with the singles and he did great," the coach said. "He has very sound technique and picture perfect shots."
He played in an exhibition match against the Prout School on Friday and won easily, which put him in contention for the number three singles spot.
"I think that it is really cool being the only freshman on the varsity team and to play at such a high seed," Baines said.
The competition in the higher division does not have him worried, but he is realistic about the level of play he will see.
"I know quite a few of the incoming freshman from the other schools and they are pretty tough, plus those schools are already in Div. I so they know how to play at that level," he explained. "It should be interesting."
His mother is also a tennis player and she started him playing when he was 5-years-old. He plays on Sundays with Tennis RI in Warwick and believes the clinic has helped his game.
Baines has the confidence that Vinacco says is going to be one of her team's strengths this year.
"There is definitely a lot of confidence up and down the whole team. They are not worried about the move to a higher division and that will help them tremendously," she said.
Choosing the team was a hard decision for the coach. She said 33 players tried out for the team and the team makeup was not set until after the conclusion of the tryouts.
"It is a pretty tight team, they just click. They choose to be with each other even when they aren't at practice," Vinacco concluded. "Win or lose, it is going to be a good, fun season to watch."
The first regular season home match is today against South Kingstown at 3:30 p.m.