The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys varsity tennis team, which has been hard at work all winter inside the bubble at the Vineyard Youth Tennis Center (VYT) on Barnes Road, just got its fourth coach in four years. Bill Rigali, a recent arrival, brings more than 30 years of experience coaching girls tennis at Holyoke High School in Western Massachusetts.
Continuity has been lacking over the past four years. Following the retirement of longtime coach Ned Fennessey, Josh Schaan took over for one year followed by Eric Meyer, both of whom have since left the Island.
“Technically and physically they’re ready to go, it’s just a matter of having a coach that they all really like and who can bring them together as a team,” said VYT coach Mike Hallisky, who has worked closely with the boys.
Last October, Mr. Rigali, whose grandson, Syius, plays at VYT, was helping VYT staff and other volunteers erect the bubble. He approached VYT director Scott Smith to ask about the high school tennis program.
Mr. Smith told Mr. Rigali the boys varsity tennis team was going to need a coach next season. Mr. Rigali then contacted Mark McCarthy, MVRHS athletic director, and the rest is history.
“I told the athletic director I didn’t want to take the position from anyone on the Island, that if someone was interested to please consider them ahead of me, but I don’t think anyone else applied,” he said. “It’s not like I was this outstanding candidate beating out a number of people. I do love the game and I do like being around the game of tennis and coaching high school-aged kids. It seemed like a good opportunity.”
Mr. Rigali said his wife Sandra has strong Vineyard connections. Sandra’s parents have lived on the Vineyard for 45 years, and this past fall Mr. Rigali’s daughter, Kiely, took a teaching position at the Edgartown School. Mr. Rigali and his wife have recently retired from teaching careers.
“There came an opportunity to coach the boys team in the spring, and we thought, well, maybe it would be an opportunity to spend a little bit of time with our grandson and our daughter on the Island,” Bill Rigali told The Times.
Mr. Rigali began his tennis coaching career with a couple of years at Mount Holyoke College, and then spent the next 30 years coaching girls tennis at Holyoke High School. He stopped coaching girls tennis a few years ago. He did, however, just complete his 34th year coaching boys basketball at the school.
His coaching record includes five Western Massachusetts district basketball championships, and one state final. In 2013, the school renamed the basketball court in his honor. He also had 11 girls tennis teams qualify for playoffs and won two league championships.
Bill and his wife will remain on Island for the tennis season, but will return to Western Massachusetts at its close. “I hope the Island likes me and they like the work I do. The plan is for us to spend the Springs here,” Mr. Rigali told The Times.
His daughter and grandson have a winter rental and that is where Mr. Rigali and his wife are staying. “We’re navigating through the swirl of island housing,” he said.
Mr. Rigali met with the boys for the first time last Monday. The courts were wet, so they just talked and got acquainted.
“It’s a nice size group; we had 12 sign up,” Mr. Rigali said. “It’s an ideal size for a high school tennis team because you can only play seven in a match and you want to be able to work some kids in so they get experience for down the road.”
The boys team did not lose any players to graduation and Connor Downing is the only senior this year.
“The boys are in the rebuilding stages and they are not as deep as the girls team,” Mr. Hallisky told The Times. “A few years from now though, they’re going to be strong, if not stronger, than the girls. The boys have three solid singles players and have a shot at the state title as long as they come together as a team.”
Mr. Rigali praised the VYT program. “One thing that really interested me about this position was how the VYT program helps youth develop an interest in the game, and that can be anything from college tennis to recreational fun. I felt that I could contribute to this grassroots part of tennis. VYT is such a unique and outstanding setup.”
Mr. Rigali has been impressed by what he has seen and is optimistic about the coming season. “The kids are great and you can tell they’ve had some good training coming up through the youth tennis center,” he said. “There’s some great potential for the kids to do well.”
The boys varsity squad has its first match home Saturday, April 2, at 1 pm versus Nauset Regional High School.