ROCHELLE — Junior Elin Zheng found herself locked in a nearly three-hour-long singles battle with Sterling’s Ellie Aitken for the fifth and deciding point of the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity tennis team’s nonconference home match against the Golden Warriors on Wednesday evening.
With the sun fading out and players from both teams watching and cheering from the bleachers, Zheng and Aitken took the No. 1 singles match into a third-set tiebreaker, where the Lady Hub junior fought hard but fell just short in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-10 loss to the state qualifier Aitken. The No. 1 singles win allowed Sterling to hold on for a 3-2 victory over Rochelle (2-5, 0-3 Interstate 8).
“Elin was very consistent and she was keeping the ball in play throughout the match,” head coach Lizzie Cartwright said. “She was solid throughout the match and it was back and forth the whole time. It could’ve been either player’s match tonight and Elin played her heart out.”
The Lady Hubs secured the first point of the match at the No. 3 doubles court, where senior Maleah Pointer and sophomore Riley Doyle cruised over Anna Hutchison and Teagan Morris 6-1, 6-0. The Golden Warriors evened the score with a win at the No. 1 doubles court, where Riley Dunn and Emma Trader held off seniors Torrin Nantz and Francesca Williams 6-4, 6-4.
“Maleah and Riley came out ready to perform and it was great to see,” Cartwright said. “When they’re communicating, they play well and that’s something we continue to talk with our players about. We always want our players talking during points because good things will happen.”
Rochelle took a 2-1 lead in the match after seniors Bailey Jackson and Marisa Whaley rallied to earn a 6-4, 6-4 win over Eva Dillon and Leticia Caudillo at the No. 2 doubles court. In a hard-fought match at the No. 2 singles court, Sterling’s Layla Tablante outlasted Rochelle senior Abby Tarvestad 6-3, 6-4 to tie the score again at 2-2 with the No. 1 singles match still in play.
“Bailey and Marisa communicate well on the court,” Cartwright said. “When I see them talking to each other in between points, that’s when I see them doing well. They have a great attitude. They’re here to have fun, but they want to win as well and I think that’s great to see… The girls are doing a great job and they’re putting a lot of effort in during practice. They’re staying positive and we’re having a really good time together. I’m enjoying how our season is going so far.”
Rochelle will return home for a nonconference match against Streator on Monday at 4:30 p.m.