In a division full of powerhouses, Skippers hope to surprise
The North Kingstown High School boys’ tennis team is midway into an exciting season, according to coach Jacques Faulise. The whole team is stepping up to fill the void left when the last season’s star, Dan Hansen, graduated. Hansen was the top player in Rhode Island for the past four years.
This season isn’t going to be like last year, said Faulise, because the team has lost its ace. But Jamestowner Jacob Morris is helping the team deal with Hansen’s departure. Jake is playing singles for the first time this season.
Jake, a senior at North Kingstown High, was named second team All State last year in doubles, and he’s become the No. 2 singles man this year.
“He’s worked on his game a lot,” Faulise said.
Jake said the No. 2 means he’s the second best singles player on the team. The ranking is based on challenge matches at the start of the year, and the teams don’t normally change the rankings after the season starts.
The team has four singles players and three doubles teams. Jake is also the Skippers’ captain.
The transition from doubles to singles hasn’t been too hard, Jake said, but playing singles matches is challenging. “It’s a lot different.” He played doubles for the past three years and hasn’t played much tournament singles at all. He said he only played in “one or two tournaments.”
Tennis isn’t Jake’s only sport. He was quarterback of the Skippers’ football team, but took up tennis five years ago. He decided to learn because his father was a good person to teach him. David Morris, Jake’s dad, used to teach tennis in Jamestown.
This spring Jake said that his whole family is playing baseball, so he wanted to try a different sport.
While on the court, Jake focuses on his service game (“I like my serve”), although he admits that just having a big serve won’t turn him into a consistent winner. The serve is a big part of the game, he said, but it’s not his whole game. He plans to win by being consistent with his strokes.
Jake considers himself a serveand volley player but would like to come to net more often. “I like to get to net as much as I can, and I like to volley,” he said.
His favorite professional tennis player is Rafael Nadal. “He’s a freak athlete,” Jake said. “He’s insane. It’s fun to watch him, though. He makes crazy shots.”
This season hopefully will not be his last as a tennis player. He does plan to try out for the college tennis team. Jake is committed to Roanaoke College in Virginia, a Division-III school. He said he might have a shot at making the team.
Jake plans to study business or sports management. He is a native islander and attended both Melrose and Lawn schools.
Charlie Keen, a sophomore, is the only other islander on this year’s varsity team.
The Skippers will have to do most of their damage against the Division-I North opponents, Jake said, such as Smithfield, Cumberland and Lincoln. The North is the weaker region, he said.
According to Faulise, the Skippers are in the tough Division-I South, and they’re matched against Rhode Island tennis dynasties.
The whole team has to step up, the coach added, including new varsity players from last year’s junior varsity team, which was undefeated and won the state title. “They all have to move up.”
The Skippers have fought to compile a 4-5 record so far. They still face an uphill battle to make the playoffs, though, according to Faulise.
South Kingstown, the top Division I South team, has won 13 state titles in a row.
And the Rebels aren’t the Skippers’ only problem. The state’s three best teams, in fact, all are in the South. The other two top teams are Barrington High and Bishop Hendricken.
To put the situation in perspective, Faulise explained, for the last 13 years, the other finalist in the state title match has been either Barrington or Hendricken.
The Skippers started on a winning note with a 6-1 victory over Westerly.
But then Barrington, last year’s runner-up, handed North Kingstown its first defeat on April 5. The Eagles beat the Skippers 6-1. That started a mini-losing streak for North Kingstown. South Kingstown shut them out 7-0 on April 10, and Bishop Hendricken beat them a week later 6-1.
But then the Skippers came away with back-to-back-to-back victories. They shut out Toll Gate on April 17 and then whipped Mount St. Charles the following day, 6-1. They defeated Wheeler for their third straight win.
But since then they are on a two-game skid, with 5-2 losses to both Smithfield and La Salle. They currently sit in fourth place in the division.
Only the top three teams in the division will secure playoff spots, Faulise said, so the Skippers have a rocky road ahead of them.