ROCHELLE — A strong finish to the 2019 season will lead to a rebuild for the Rochelle varsity boys tennis team and head coach Kristy Eckardt. The Hubs won four of their final seven dual matches, finishing 4-19 overall behind the leadership of six senior players including Hector Garcia, Emilio Nava, Alex Galambos, Diego Lopez, Caden Manning and Gage Sullivan.
“We definitely improved every day and we were able to win a couple of dual meets by the end of the year,” Eckardt said. “We were playing our best tennis which is what we want as a program. I was pleased with everybody’s effort and we had a great group of guys. It was a nice and relaxing atmosphere, and that allowed the guys to play their best.”
Rochelle defeated Rockford East twice while also topping Marengo and Streator during nonconference action. While the Hubs went winless in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference, the purple and white are set to move into the Interstate Eight Conference next year. Junior Sean Flanagan and freshman Jason Zheng anchored Rochelle in varsity singles, and both players can return for the 2020 season.
“Sean did an incredible job playing the best guys on the other team,” Eckardt said. “He only started playing two years ago, and we asked a lot of him, but he stepped up to the challenge every time… Jason came in with a lot of raw talent, and I think that more experience and getting him more consistent will be important for us.”
Junior Gabe Nava will be the only eligible varsity doubles player who could return next year, leading the Hubs to look for freshmen such as Alex Gilbert and Peter Forsberg for contributions during 2020. Rochelle placed third in the Freeport Invitational while taking eighth in both the NIB-12 Conference Championships and the IHSA Class 1A Rochelle Sectional.
“Gabe is a really strong doubles player and we had a couple of freshmen who were strong in doubles,” Eckardt said. “They started catching on so we’ll be looking for them to step up next year.”