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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

Hopedale Girls’ Tennis On The Road Again

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
The Hopedale girls’ tennis team opened the season with back-to-back games against Uxbridge and Grafton on March 30 and 31. 
Unfortunately, once again the Blue Raiders will have to take all of their tennis matches on the road as the town does not have an MIAA approved court for them to play on.
Since 2015, the Hopedale girls have been to seven straight tournaments with the only year they missed out on was the Covid year in which the season was cancelled. Through those seven years, the Blue Raiders had captured three straight Division 3 Central Titles, lost in another championship match and been to the semi-finals, the quarter finals, and the round of 16.   
During their three years where they won the Sectionals, Hopedale lost once in the State semi-Finals and twice in the State Championship Match. In the majority of their losses that sent them home for the year, Hopedale usually played tough before eventually being edged out 3-2.
Having lost two girls to graduation and another three to moving away or not returning to the team, coach Art Riffo is looking at a very young team to grace the courts for the Blue raiders this spring. Despite having a squad of young athletes, the Hopedale Coach is not wavering from his team once again making it to the tournament.
“I don’t expect too much from them this year; there are no high expectations. I am looking for them just to continue to get better each time that they step onto the court,” Riffo said. “I hope that they can learn the basics while enjoying the game. If they have fun and find there is not a lot of pressure put on them then they’ll want to come back. With that said I am still optimistic that we will be advance into the tournament once again this year.”
Coming back to play first singles for the Blue Raiders once again this year is freshman Pia Obrador. As an eighth grader last season, Obrador was Hopedale’s top tennis player and unfortunately found the season a little tough having to go up against seniors in that number one spot. With that season under her belt she enters this year with clarity that she is not only the number one player, but now knows what she is up against and ready to take on the upper classmen.
“This year I just want her to relax and don’t let the opposition intimidate her,” the Hopedale Coach said. “If she goes out and just plays her game, she’ll be fine. She is a powerful tennis player, and her serves are tough to return, we just need to work on her variety of shots to take her to the next level.”
Following Obrador at the number one singles, Riffo has yet decided who will play second and third singles. Currently either junior Sydney Hall or freshman Kate Friesema will take the second singles position while the other will play third singles. Neither girls has any singles experience as both played doubles last spring.
“Both girls are consistent, but this will be their first year playing singles. Going from doubles to singles is a very different game where you don’t have a partner to rely on, it’s all on you,” Riffo said. “Both girls have good forehand and backhands and the one that makes the least mistakes will get that number two spot with the other taking third.”
Much like the singles circuit, Riffo finds himself with a task at hand after his top doubles tandem. Juniors Callie Constanza and Abigail Aldrich will once again hold down the tops double position. The two juniors played together last season and are rather familiar with one another and play well together. 
At second doubles the Coach is entering unchartered waters having only freshman Gabby Rinehart returning. The freshman saw some action playing doubles last year, but her partner, whomever it may be, will be relatively new to the sport. Riffo has nine or 10 girls battling it out to be that last girl to get onto the court and as of this writing, eighth grader Madison Buttonow has that inside edge. The coach has liked the coordination with her hand and foot movement, as well as her athleticism.
Things will once again be tough for the girls having to travel to each and every game, but Riffo is not going to let that deter them of getting back into the State Tournament. According to the Coach, as long as they are enjoying playing the game then things will fall into place and the Blue Raiders will once again be a team amongst the Division 4 teams to take part in the tournament.