ROCHELLE — Lady Hubs tennis coach Lizzie Cartwright was both surprised and excited to see how many freshmen came out for the team when Rochelle took the court on Wednesday for its first practice of the 2018 season.
Twelve freshmen laced up their shoes and wielded their tennis rackets at Rochelle Township High School this week, and Cartwright said the first-year group is the largest she’s seen since becoming head coach of the Lady Hubs. Rochelle opens its season with a home meet against the Harlem Huskies on Monday, Aug. 20 at 4 p.m.
“I was really happy to see there were a ton of freshmen that came out,” Cartwright said. “I’m excited for the new season to start… I’m excited for the team to have potential to grow over the next four years and I’m looking forward to having my upperclassmen continue to set an example for the underclassmen.”
Rochelle played two seniors (Jasmin Galvan and Alex Nava) at varsity singles last year, so the Lady Hubs will need two new players to step up this fall. Cartwright said that senior Lila Roush, who earned some singles experience toward the end of last season, will be one player to look out for when Rochelle takes on its opponents this year.
“Lila played her first singles match toward the end of last year and she was doing an excellent job,” Cartwright said. “I’m hoping to see Lila come out and try to do some singles matches this year.”
The Lady Hubs graduated four seniors at varsity doubles from last season including Lillian Fulgencio, Anahi Calderon, Marissa Belmonte and Raquel Montelongo. Seniors Ashlynn Leininger and Jasmine Rissman could take the court at doubles this season after earning varsity experience last season. Cartwright also said that juniors Caitlin McMurray, Ruth Gardner and sophomore Melanie Gonzalez are three more players to watch.
“Melanie has been working really hard this summer and she’s consistently been out at our open courts,” Cartwright said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in her. I think that Caitlin and Ruth could step up for us this year, and I think Jasmine and Ashlynn are another pair that we can use.”
While Rochelle played close matches against Streator, DeKalb, Princeton and Dixon last year, the Lady Hubs were unable to lock down a win, finishing 0-17 overall. Cartwright said she’s looking to help her players build a more competitive edge this fall, and she’s seeking to avoid another winless season.
“I definitely hope that we do way better than we did last year,” Cartwright said. “I want to instill a more competitive edge in the girls and I want them to have more mental toughness and more desire to win. I want tennis to be fun for them, but I want them to see that winning can be fun too.”