ROCHELLE — Noah Griffith played his way into the state tennis meet last season, and the junior Hub is looking to continue his success on the court this season.
“I’m loosened up since I played in Rockford a little bit back in February,” Griffith said. “I’m feeling pretty good. I’d like to improve my consistency… My temper was iffy so my composure will be a big factor for me this season. I’d like to make it to state again and I think this team has some talented players so I think we can improve a lot.”
Griffith and the Hubs tennis team journeyed outside for practice on Thursday, much to the delight of head coach Kristy Eckardt, who said she is excited about the amount of the kids on the team this season.
“We have 21 kids this year so that’s really promising,” Eckardt said. “Noah should have another good season and we have a lot of openings for the rest of the kids to step up since we lost a few kids from last year… A lot of our guys have experience.”
Among those players are lone senior Bryan Garcia and junior Kevin Zheng, who played at the varsity level last season as a sophomore. Rochelle finished near the bottom of the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference last year, but this year’s squad is looking to take a step forward.
“It feels good to be back,” Zheng said. “I think everybody’s improving so we’re going to have a good season. I think I’m still improving. My backhands are my strength and I still need to improve on my forehand. I want to win more and maybe go to state.”
The Hubs will head out to Rock Island on Saturday, March 25 for their first dose of tennis action this season before facing Mendota in a dual match at home on Tuesday, March 28. While it might be a little early to gauge where this year’s team can end up, Eckardt said she’s confident her boys will use their additional experience to their advantage in singles and doubles play.
“We had a lot of guys last year who were in their first year, and you can already tell they’re better than they were before,” she said. “I think they want to learn how to play tennis and they want to keep getting better… We can definitely finish better in conference this year. I expect us to get a couple more dual meet wins, and now that there are only two classes for tennis I think we may be able to get a few more kids through to state.”