A lot has changed for the Cranston East tennis team in the last two years. Last year, the ’Bolts moved into the new Division III after D-IV was eliminated in Rhode Island Interscholastic League realignment. This year, after a 4-10 campaign a season ago and the graduation of most of the starting lineup, the ’Bolts are trotting out a new-look squad.
Head coach Rich Perrotta hopes it’s an opportunity to start building stability for the future. For now, the ’Bolts will see where those efforts can take them.
“Our first game the other day against North Smithfield, out of the 10, I think only two had played high school tennis before,” Perrotta said. “We’ll be alright. Hopefully playoffs. If not, I think it’s a good learning year. We’ve got a lot of young guys so we’ve got a lot of room to grow.”
East dropped its first two matches, both by 7-0 scores. Some of the individual match scores were closer, though, and the ’Bolts are hoping to build on the positives as they get into the thick of their schedule.
“We shouldn’t do too bad as we go along and jell a little bit,” Perrotta said. “We’ll take some lumps, but hopefully we’ll pick it up from there. A lot of the games have been close. They just don’t know how to close them out yet.”
Only two of East’s singles players – seniors Max Krishchek and Ed Jackson – have played varsity singles in the past. Krishchek played No. 4 all of last season, while Jackson spent some time at No. 3 singles.
This year, they’ll be part of a singles ladder that should be solid.
In the top spot is freshman Logan Barnes, an experienced tennis player who has jumped right into the lineup.
“He had the jitters in his first match, but he’s a good player,” Perrotta said. “Hopefully that will settle down.”
Jackson is currently manning the second spot, with Krishchek playing No. 3 singles. Senior Sakal Chamroeun is moving into the No. 4 spot.
On the doubles ladder, East is breaking in a host of new players. For now, junior Axel Halvarson and junior Tom Mulholland are teaming up at No. 1 doubles. Seniors Jeff Xu and Nelson Justa are playing No. 2 doubles, and senior Jeremy Te and sophomore Erick Smith round out the lineup at No. 3 doubles. Other players in the mix include junior Khalil Jackson and freshman Nick Zarrella.
“A lot of the kids were on the team last year but they weren’t on the ladder,” Perrotta said. “They have some sense of what we’re doing. It’s not so much teaching tennis. It’s a little more coaching.”
And the ’Bolts are already showing improvement. After all straight-set losses against North Smithfield, the ’Bolts made more headway against St. Raphael last Tuesday. Barnes took the first set from Sam Reinhardt before losing the next two 6-4 and 6-0. Krishchek, and the doubles teams of Halvarson and Mulholland and Justa and Xu also battled in close matches.
As the season gets busier, East is hoping the improvement continues. Whether it leads to the playoffs or not, it’ll be an important step for the program.
“My core is younger guys, so we’re building,” Perrotta said. “If not this year, hopefully in the next couple of years we’ll be where we want to be.”