RADNOR — Tennis has been a part of Ryshena Providence's life as long as she can remember.
The Agnes Irwin senior and Yeadon resident is the daughter of Joe and Charmaine Providence, longtime coaches of both the boys and girls teams at Chester and Penn Wood, respectively. The USTA Middle States Section named the Providences the Philadelphia Area's Tennis Family of the Year in 2010.
"My dad used to run a summer camp at Penn State-Brandywine, and I started going there when I was 4 years old,' said Providence, whose older sister Jocelyn was also a standout at Agnes Irwin.
And Providence has done nothing but get better. This fall, she dominated the Inter-Ac League, probably as competitive a league for tennis as there is in the state, and as a result has been named the 2013 Daily Times Player of the Year.
Providence is joined on the All-Delco team by Agnes Irwin sophomore Camille Smukler, Episcopal Academy's top two singles players, junior Genevieve McCormick and senior Caroline O'Rourke, and Marple Newtown junior Rylee Power. The All-Delco team is chosen by the Daily Times in consultation with county coaches.
Providence and O'Rourke are four-time All-Delcos while Smukler, McCormick and Power appear on the team for the first time.
Providence was the No. 1 singles player for Agnes Irwin as an eighth-grader and she has remained one of the top players in the Inter-Ac ever since. On her way to an unbeaten season this fall, Providence squared off three times against Episcopal's McCormick and defeated her every time, first in the regular-season dual-match meeting between the teams, then in the final of the first-singles bracket at the Inter-Ac Tournament and finally at the AIS-EA Day dual match Nov. 8.
Episcopal earned the Inter-Ac title with a 5-2 win in the first dual match, but the Owls got a little revenge by taking the team title at the Inter-Ac Tournament and beating the Churchwomen, 6-1, on AIS-EA Day.
"Our team is amazing,' Providence said. "I only play tennis, but we have girls on the team who play other sports and they say tennis is the closest group. We're a family.'
Agnes Irwin coach Wendy Short will miss not having Providence to plug into that No. 1 singles spot and the leadership she has brought to the team.
"It has been such a pleasure to have had the opportunity these past five years to be Ryshena's high school coach,' Short said. "The successes that she has had, especially this year, is because no one has worked harder, played with more tenacity or has been more dedicated to improve her game than she has. Ryshena has definitely left her mark on the Agnes Irwin tennis team and the athletic program.'
Providence's game has steadily improved under the tutelage of Chris Hill, who is based at the University of Pennsylvania but has taught in several locations over the years. Since starting out with him at age 9, Providence has always stuck with Hill.
"He emphasizes conditioning, and I always feel like I can stay out there all day,' said Providence, who recently signed to continue her tennis and academic pursuits at Drexel University. "And he's helped me develop an all-around game, so if one aspect of my game is off, I can fall back on another area.'
Providence's sister Jocelyn went to the University of Massachusetts and has moved on to grad school at Lehigh. The younger Providence decided to pay Drexel a visit even though she wasn't sure it would be the right place for her.
"It's so close to home, I didn't think I'd want to go there, but I visited it and fell in love with the place,' Providence said. "They have an environmental engineering program that I'm interested in. And they have the co-op program.'
Providence feels Agnes Irwin has given her the preparation she needs to succeed as a student-athlete at the next level.
"The Inter-Ac is such a tough league, so I've faced tough competition, and Agnes Irwin is demanding academically, so I've mentally prepared myself for college,' she said. "Education is important here. I've had to learn time management, so everything gets done.'
Providence went to Venice, Italy, for 10 days last spring as part of an Agnes Irwin program for sophomores and juniors and indulged in one of her favorite hobbies, photography. It was just another building block in the development of the personable teen.
She has grown up a fan of Serena Williams, but the tennis purist in her can't help but admire Roger Federer, who, even as his game declines from its lofty heights, remains one of the most popular figures to ever take the court.
"I don't think some of the players who have overtaken him would have been as great if they didn't have to raise their games to compete with Federer,' Providence said.
Providence won't discount the possibility of a professional tennis career. She will continue to play in under-18 Middle States events in the spring and summer leading into her freshman year at Drexel.
"I might consider giving it a try,' she said. "My sister and I have always talked about playing doubles professionally, and that would be fun. But I know I have college to fall back on if tennis doesn't work out.'