Not many high school tennis players earn the right to play at the state championships three consecutive years, but that’s exactly what Rochelle senior Noah Griffith will be looking to accomplish with the Hubs varsity tennis team this season.
Griffith has cruised through his early matches, going 4-0 over Rochelle’s first four dual meets and helping the Hubs piece together a 2-2 record with wins over Belvidere North and DeKalb. The senior has raised expectations for his final season with the Hubs, and his goals for 2018 include winning the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference title as well as the IHSA Sectional competition.
“We’re off to a strong start and we’re building confidence with these wins,” Griffith said. “All the aspects of my game are looking pretty strong right now and as a team, I think we’re executing more shots throughout meets and practices which have given us more confidence heading into our other meets.”
While Griffith won nearly 30 matches at No. 1 singles last season, he said he’s seeking redemption after falling just short at both the conference and sectional tournaments. Griffith lost the conference title match to Sterling’s Dillon Nitz in 2017 to finish second, and he dropped two close three-set matches in the sectional at Rockford Boylan to place fourth.
“My serving has improved a lot from last year and I’ve worked hard on reducing the number of double faults I make,” Griffith said. “My forehand and using top spin have always been positives about my game since I was little, but the things I want to work on are my backhand and getting to the net because I’ve been known to be more of a baseline bully.”
Griffith’s success on the tennis court should come as no surprise, as both his older sister Haley and his mother Kristen played at Rochelle and were coached by Mike Pence, who remains an assistant with the Hubs and whose daughter Kristy Eckardt is now head coach of the program. His sister qualified for state in doubles during her time with the Lady Hubs tennis team, and Griffith also draws inspiration from his grandparents Jim and Flo Robertson who play the sport.
“I was born into a tennis family and I started playing when I was little,” Griffith said. “I fell in love with the game and I knew I wanted to pursue something with it... My sister and my mom give me a lot of advice and they’re very informed about the game. My grandpa knows a lot about the game as well. I wouldn’t be nearly as good as I am today without their love and support and it’s been really neat to carry on our tradition.”
A spot in this year’s state tennis championships would be a trifecta of sorts for Griffith, who qualified for the state golf championships in the fall and reached the state 3-point basketball shooting contest in the winter. Griffith has played all three sports for four years at Rochelle, but tennis remains his favorite sport due to the adrenaline rush it creates. The senior will be continuing his tennis career at Ottawa University Arizona after graduating RTHS.
“I love the atmosphere,” Griffith said. “I love making awesome shots, playing fast and hitting the ball hard. I have a bunch of support from my friends and family. I wouldn’t have been able to make state without their support, and I give the glory to God because he’s blessed me with the athletic talent to have opportunities to make it to state and play at the collegiate level.”