New coach takes the helm of North Kingstown tennis team
Under the direction of new coach Matt Marion, the players were on the courts this week practicing against each other to prepare for Tuesday’s showdown against Barrington. The Skippers, who won their first two matches over Lincoln and Hendricken, are looking to stop a three-match skid.
“I am looking for a winning record this season,” said Charlie Keen, a junior who plays doubles. Last season the Skippers finished 7-9. This year they are 2-3 in the early going.
Charlie, the son of Martin and Mary Keen, isn’t the only islander to make varsity this season. Finn Dwyer, 15 and just a sophomore, has realized a personal goal by making the team. Finn and fellow Jamestowner Ben Lee played last year on the junior varsity team that racked up an undefeated record before losing in the state finals to rival South Kingstown.
Finn and Ben set their sights set on moving up to varsity this season after their successful freshman campaigns. Both succeeded.
According to Finn, Marion has brought a new feel to the team. “He’s already helped improve many players through his knowledge of the game,” he said. “He’s friendly and outgoing.”
Finn said Marion’s attitude helps the players take more “joy in the sport.”
Finn will play doubles again this year for the Skippers. While he is happy to get playing time on one of North Kingstown’s four doubles teams, he ultimately thinks he can be more effective as a singles player. He hopes to make that switch in the future.
“I think I’m probably a better singles player,” he said. “I’m not as great at net as I am at the baseline.”
Finn said there are a handful of teams in Division I that will be in the hunt for a state championship. Besides the Skippers, he figures the toughest contenders are Smithfield, La Salle and Hendricken.
The Skippers already beat Hendricken, a 4-3 win on April 4. Charlie and partner Jeff McIntyre defeated Mike Niederberger and Cory Sloan in straight sets. But North Kingstown lost its following match against Smithfield, 5-2. Charlie’s doubles team dropped a tough three-set match, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
While Finn admits Smithfield, La Salle and Hendricken can be trouble, he says all eyes will once again be on South Kingstown. “They haven’t lost in 14 years,” he said.
The Rebels have won every Division-I title since 1999. Last Thursday South Kingstown easily supplanted the Skippers, 6-1. Matt DelGreco’s three-set win over Julius Sun was North Kingstown’s only point.
Finn is a relative newcomer to tennis, and the leap from JV to varsity – in just his second year – represents a sizeable accomplishment.
“It was definitely within my grasp,” he said. “It wasn’t farfetched.”
Finn said he worked on his serve all summer and even through the winter. He played at the Conanicut Yacht Club in Jamestown in the warmer months and at the Interna- tional Tennis Hall of Fame to get out of the cold. He took lessons at both locations and played some competitive matches, too.
As for Charlie, this is his third year playing competitive highschool tennis. He started learning the sport six years ago by playing with his parents at the indoor courts at the Tennis Hall of Fame.
Charlie likes to play on clay best, and living in Jamestown, there is always one close by: Conanicut Yacht Club hosts a clay playing surface.
Charlie has started looking at colleges. He plans to continue his education after high school and expects he will pursue law, philosophy or human sciences. His favorite subjects at North Kingstown have been English and history.
In tennis, he watches Rafael Nadal of Spain and Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
“I have the same racket,” he said. “I like their style. Del Potro has a big serve, and Nadal has tons of spin.”
The spin is something he wants to perfect for his game, he said. But he’s not strictly watching them to learn.
“They’re fun to watch,” he added.
Finn also likes Nadal, but he enjoys following some of the lesserknown pros.
“I mean, yeah, I do like Nadal, but then again I also like a lot of smaller guys, the underdogs.” He singled out Fernando Verdasco, another Spaniard, and the Bryan brothers, the top-ranked men’s doubles team in the world.
Finn says the battle for a state title will be close. He expects any one of the top teams to have a chance – if they can overcome the Rebels, of course. Finn hopes the Skippers can be the team that ends the dynasty in Rhode Island boys’ tennis.