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PAWTUCKET â€” Just as head coach Frank Laliberte had envisioned, Tolman High cinched an elementary 6-1 Division II-North victory over arch rival Shea at Slater Park's Mike Kenny Courts on Friday afternoon.
For that, he was both excited and relieved. Over the previous 10 days, the Tigers had lost four straight, including two tight, 4-3 crossover decisions to II-South foes Pilgrim and Chariho, and Laliberte really wanted his guys to get off the schneid.
The reason: He desperately wants his squad to earn a playoff bid, but â€“ even after the triumph over the still-winless Raiders â€“ he's unsure if that will become a reality.
â€śThe guys won decisively, so I think this was good for their confidence,â€ť Laliberte stated after his club improved to 5-7 in league action. â€śThose losses could come back to haunt us. Those were matches we could've won, and they would've helped us get a playoff spot.â€ť
The fact is, the Tigers have four more matches left in the regular season â€“ they will travel to Glocester to face Ponaganset at 3:30 p.m., Monday, then battle host Classical at 4 p.m., Tuesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, it will resume a match against Providence Country Day that had been postponed on Thursday, then host East Providence back at Slater Park at 3:30 p.m., Thursday.
â€śI really don't know what we need to do (to reach the post-season), but we definitely have to win the matches against teams we've already beaten,â€ť he noted. â€śWhen we face Ponaganset, they'll have Jared Donaldson, the freshman phenom, playing No. 1 (singles). He's unbelievable.
â€śOur No. 1, Jake Sawyer, had already told me he can't be there as he's got a mandatory commitment to the Navy; he wants to join after graduation, so (sophomore No. 2) Teddy Reall has drawn that assignment,â€ť he added with a chuckle. â€śJared is ranked 241st in the world (according to U.S. Tennis Association ratings for boys under-18), so the poor kid (Reall) is going to have to take him on.
â€śAt least he'll have something to tell his kids, that he played one of the top players in the world â€¦ Ponaganset's in second place in our division, and Classical isn't far behind.â€ť
Laliberte also explained that, when Tolman's match against PCD resumes Wednesday, his Tigers are behind in all but one match, â€śso the guys have to do some work to get back into that one, despite the fact they forfeited the match at No. 3 doubles.â€ť
As for the contest against the Townies next Thursday, Laliberte's bunch had captured a triumph previously, so he expects his Tigers to do the same.
â€śRealistically, the best record we can end up with is 7-9,â€ť he indicated. â€śNow, is 7-9 good enough to make the playoffs? Who knows? A lot of it depends on how Chariho (5-6 before Friday) and Pilgrim (3-8) fare the rest of the way. I do know Chariho will play Prout (another fantastic team) in a regular match (today), and then resume the one that was suspended against East Greenwich, which is also loaded, right after facing Prout.
â€śMy prediction is Chariho will probably end up 8-8 because they have three matches left that are winnable, so it all comes down to this: Will they? It's a long shot for us. It's realistic we can get to seven wins, not so much eight. Without question, we need some help.â€ť
The Tigers needed no aid in dispatching Shea (0-11) on Friday. At No. 2 singles, Reall coasted to a 6-2, 6-0 win over junior Edwin Garcia, while junior Cory Letendre downed sophomore Beau Brissette by the same score at No. 3. Mike Majdalani, another sophomore, dominated classmate Dominic Barata, 6-0, 6-1, to raise his record to 6-6 on the spring.
â€śI played pretty good; this is probably the best I've played all season,â€ť Majdalani grinned following his triumph. â€śI don't know why, except maybe that I got a new racquet. I like it. I also think it was because I concentrated more on what I needed to do.â€ť
When asked why, he smiled again, â€śIt was against Shea, our rival.â€ť
As for doubles action, Tolman's No. 1 tandem of senior Paul Maynard and sophomore George Al-Amir, who bettered their season mark to 7-5, crushed the junior team of Malik Barros and Lucas Cardoso, 6-1, 6-0. Likewise, the No. 2 pairing of senior Roberto Moreno and freshman Harrison Moran registered a 6-2, 6-0 verdict over junior Kevin Argueta and frosh Roberto Chavez.
The No. 3 duo of freshmen Dustin Kindberg and Nick Agin had it easy, as they won by forfeit.
â€śThis wasn't a surprise,â€ť Laliberte said of pummeling Shea. â€śI thought this would be a good time for some guys who normally don't see much playing time to get into the lineup, so I put Roberto Moreno with Moran. Roberto's a senior and a great kid. He's never played in a varsity match before, so this was a great opportunity for him.
â€śAs for Harrison, he's gone on some tough road trips this year,â€ť he continued. â€śI've put him down to play No. 3 doubles, but when we get there, (the opponents) don't field a 'three doubles,' so he can't play. It happened to him again (Thursday) at PCD; he's been stiffed a few times, so I thought they'd make a nice combination, and
â€śI thought they'd be able to handle themselves at 'No. 2,' and they did.â€ť
The only match that didn't go Tolman's way came at No. 1 singles, when junior Eli Itkin drubbed Sawyer, 6-1, 6-0.
â€śI'm pretty pleased overall with the way I played,â€ť Itkin stated. â€śI've been working really hard on my serves, so I was glad to see they were working for me. My forehand was a little shaky, as I really couldn't get the control out of it that I wanted. I still think I played pretty well. I've faced Jake before, and I know he didn't play his best match.â€ť
Laliberte discovered Thursday Raiders' mentor Matt Pita would be unable to attend the match, though he had outstanding reason. (Turns out, Shea Athletic Director Ray McGee played his role).
â€śMatt and his wife, Lisa, are the proud parents of a baby boy, Ryan Matthew; he sent me an e-mail, and I guess they had Ryan on Wednesday (May 9),â€ť he revealed. â€śI just told Matt, who I'm very close to, 'Hey, you're a new daddy. Spend time with your family. I'll take care of everything.' I know a lot of his kids anyway.â€ť