EAST PROVIDENCE — A week and a day after suffering a narrow, 4-3 setback at home to East Providence in one of its final regular season matches, the Tiverton High School boys' tennis team …
EAST PROVIDENCE — A week and a day after suffering a narrow, 4-3 setback at home to East Providence in one of its final regular season matches, the Tiverton High School boys' tennis team returned the favor in the opening round of the 2023 Division II playoffs as the visiting Tigers tipped the host Townies by the same 4-3 count Tuesday afternoon, May 23.
The No. 3 doubles duo of Aidan Sweeney and Adam Costa earned the deciding point for fifth-seeded Tiverton with their 4-6, 6-3 and 6-1 win over East Providence's Justin Petion and Jaydon Massa.
"We played a really close match against East Providence a week ago and we knew it was probably going to be a 4-3 match again this time. We knew it was going to come down to one match either way and these two guys Aidan and Adam really stepped up. Adam played really aggressive at net and Aidan had his serve working and his cross-court return," said Tiverton head coach Bill Phillips.
The Tigers improved to 10-4 in all matches to date. Tiverton advances to the semifinals where they'll face top-seeded and unbeaten North Kingstown (13-0) sometime Memorial Day week.
"We didn't play well against them the first time," Phillips said of Tiverton's 6-1 loss to NK way back on April 6 in just the third match of the season. "But we're playing better now than we have all year and we're going to get back to practice and give it our best."
For the fourth-seeded Townies, winners of the D-III title last spring, their first season back in D-II ended with a 9-5 overall record.
"I think that Tiverton was a team with a lot of seniors who really felt the moment in a sense that it was all or nothing for them. Because if they walked out of here with a loss that was it, that's it for most of their kids who had played for four years," said EPHS head coach Slade Sharma.
He continued, "But it was really close. It was 4-3. It went down to the last match, the last set. And the decider, I think, was they felt a sense of urgency because if they lost there's no more tennis for them if they didn't get it done."
Tiverton seemed poised to make quick work of the Townies taking early leads in the Nos. 1-3 singles matches and at first doubles.
The Tigers would eventually win all three of those solo outings, doing so in two sets. Ben Pacheco defeated James McShane 6-2 and 6-4 at No. 1. Connor Norbrega and Ben Sowa, like the team overall, avenged their respective losses last week to Abigail Ellison and Brayden Rouette at the two and three spots by the scores of 2-and-2 and 3-and-3.
East Providence, though, sliced their deficit to just one with a pair of wins. The Townies got on the board as the No. 2 doubles tandem of Nathan Thurber and Braydon Amaral were 2-and-3 winners over Tiverton's Thomas Costa and John Mello while John Vaughan was a 6-1 and 7-6 (7-4) winner at fourth singles over Nate Sowa.
And that first doubles match that started so promising for the Tigers' duo of Josh Guillemette and Ryan Poland switched somewhat suddenly in the favor of EP's Miguel Flores and Jordan O'Hara. After dropping the first set at love, the Townies' tandem won the next two 4-and-4 to tie the overall match at three.
Third dubs played two relatively even sets, with only one break of serve in each, before Sweeney and Costa took command of the third with a pair of early breaks, including the first game of the final frame.
The Townies couldn't recover, as Phillips noted, because both Costa, at net, and Sweeney, from the baseline, didn't let up after building the commanding lead.
"I told Aidan before the set no one wanted this more than us. They're some really talented guys and any other day it could have gone another way, but we had the aggression and I think that's what put us over," said Costa.
Added Sweeney, "Once we got to the second set my heart wouldn't start pounding. I could really feel it. I told Adam before the match we're going to play like it's 3-3 no matter what and it ended up like that. We just wanted it. We didn't let down."