ROCHELLE — Members of the Rochelle Hub varsity tennis team have improved so much from the start of the summer season that even coaches from opposing schools in the Interstate 8 Conferences are taking notice. The Hubs showcased their growth Monday afternoon, when Rochelle’s netters hosted Ottawa and LaSalle-Peru for a conference doubleheader.
Sophomore David Wanner secured two victories in singles play and Rochelle closed out the afternoon with a 4-1 victory over the Cavaliers behind a singles sweep and two doubles wins. Although Rochelle (5-10) opened the meet with a 4-1 loss to the Pirates, the Hubs have now won three conference matches, the most in any season under head coach Kristy Eckardt.
“The kids are comfortable on the court and they’re becoming more confident,” Eckardt said. “They’re understanding where they should be on the court and what shots they should be taking. They’re confident in their swings and in each other… We received a lot of compliments from the other coaches today about how much we’ve improved since we last saw them.”
Rochelle took an early 2-0 lead against LaSalle-Peru, with Wanner defeating Joe Pohar 6-1, 6-3 at No. 1 singles and junior Alex Gilbert taking down Adam Barr 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 singles. Freshman Parker Lenkaitis and sophomore John Green clinched the match for the Hubs at No. 3 doubles, beating Cavalier netters Alex Lucero and Elijah Arthurs 7-5, 6-1 in straight sets.
“Alex has been consistent and confident,” Eckardt said. “He’s learning that he has the shots and he has what it takes to compete with those other kids. He’s believing in himself a lot more. David lost earlier in the season against the kids he faced today, but seeing him win both of his matches showed that he has a lot of perseverance and the belief that he’s capable of winning.”
The final two matches concluded simultaneously, with Hub sophomore Owen Haas and junior Peter Forsberg outlasting Andrew Bollis and Traeger Abens 6-7, 6-0, 10-6 at No. 2 doubles. Juniors Jason Zheng and Devansh Patel fell 0-6, 4-6 to Adam Sarabia and Gavin Jonassen.
“We’re being much more aggressive in doubles and they’re learning it’s a lot more fun when they’re able to smash the ball at the net,” Eckardt said. “They’re doing a great job.”
Wanner secured Rochelle’s lone victory of the match with the Pirates at No. 1 singles, topping Ethan Kraft 6-1, 6-1 while Gilbert fell 1-6, 4-6 against Adam Gross at No. 2 singles. Zheng and Patel faced Sam Walker and Regan Linde at No. 1 doubles, conceding a 2-6, 0-6 defeat.
Forsberg and Haas battled Tanner Ditchfield and Logan Goetsch at No. 2 doubles, losing 1-6, 4-6. Green and Lenkaitis took the court at No. 3 doubles, falling 0-6, 3-6.