Islanders to compete in USTA junior nationals
Sam Baines and Dan Hansen of Jamestown will travel to Mobile, Ala. on Friday as part of an eight-person team competing in the Jr. Team Tennis National Championships 18 and under division.
The team is comprised of one male and one female singles player, one girls’ doubles team, one boys’ doubles team and one mixed doubles team. The individual scores are combined for a team score, so each player must do his or her best to secure a team win.
The group, which has players from Jamestown, North Kingstown, Cumberland, Tiverton and Portsmouth, is sponsored by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.
The team won at the state level, and then defeated teams from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut at the New England sectional tournament in August to advance to the national tournament.
Several of the players on the team, including Hansen, were part of the 14 and under team that made it to nationals last year. This is the first year for the 18 and under team from the Hall of Fame.
Hansen plays in the boys’ singles spot for the team.
“Last year, I won three matches at nationals and lost two, so I had a winning record,” he said. “I think since we moved up an age bracket, the competition is going to be a lot higher this year.”
Baines is a singles player when competing as a member of the North Kingstown High School tennis team, but plays mixed doubles with Danielle Benoit as a member of the junior tennis team.
“It is a lot different style when playing with girls. Guys tend to wale on the ball a little more, where girls play out each point and keep the ball on the court a lot more,” he said. “But, I think it is good for my game because it makes me play a lot more points at the net and I volley a lot more, both of which are good skills to have.”
Baines said Hansen and Hannah Zangari, the number-one player for the N.K. girls’ team, were chosen as the team’s singles players because they are the best players on the team. “The boys’ doubles players have played together in the past and they play very well together. I was too old to play on the U14 team last year, so since I am the new guy, I play mixed doubles.”
Both Hansen and Baines said playing with the team has improved their overall game.
“We see a lot of playing time and just being out there on the court and the level of competition at the sectional and national level is helpful,” Baines said.
Hansen said that although he played at the nationals last year, he is not expecting to play against any familiar opponents this year.
“I know what to expect as far as the set up, and I know the courts aren’t going to get any faster, but I think the competition is going to be tough,” he said.
The 14-and-unders finished 13th out of 16 teams last year, but Hansen said he expects the team will have a better finish this year, despite the increased competition.
“Last year, our top-seeded girls were playing in the high school state tennis tournament, so they didn’t go to nationals,” he said. “This year, they will be there, so that will make a difference.”
Baines has not played with his partner since the state tournament because she was injured for the New England tournament. “At sectionals, I played one match with each of the girls, but Danielle and I played well together at states and I think we will be fine at nationals,” he said.
Both boys would like to bring home a championship, but no matter what happens, they are excited about a fun weekend.
“This is even more fun than high school matches because after you finish your match, you are cheering everyone on. Or, if you are the last one playing, everyone is cheering you on,” Hansen said. “It is going to be fun playing good tennis and hanging out with my friends all weekend.”