ROCHELLE — Despite missing an entire season due to COVID-19, the Rochelle Hub varsity tennis team showed no signs of rust or taking steps backward. Instead, head coach Kristy Eckardt watched as the team enjoyed one of its more successful seasons in recent history.
Rochelle finished with a 5-11 record this season, earning three Interstate 8 Conference wins including two over LaSalle-Peru and one against Kaneland. The Hubs also scored nonconference victories over Mendota and Freeport. Rochelle ended the season by taking third in the Interstate 8 Varsity Championships and finishing fourth in the IHSA 1A Geneseo Sectional.
“We had a lot of kids who hadn’t played in a high school meet before,” Eckardt said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but the kids were in every match and we won more conference matches than we’ve ever had since I started coaching here. I was really impressed with what I saw from the kids this season and I’m really excited because we won’t be losing any seniors.”
The Hubs saw two players win singles matches at the IHSA 1A Geneseo Sectional including sophomore David Wanner and junior Alex Gilbert, who will each be eligible to return next season. Wanner and Gilbert both medaled at the Interstate 8 Conference tournament, with Wanner taking second place at No. 1 singles and Gilbert finishing third at No. 2 singles.
“I thought the kids developed a lot more consistency,” Eckardt said. “We were able to stay in each game and each match a lot longer than we used to and we were more aggressive rather than defensive. The kids began to trust that they knew where their shots would go and I’d like the kids to continue progressing and believing that we’re capable of winning.”
Rochelle fielded three juniors in doubles including Peter Forsberg, Devansh Patel and Jason Zheng, who can all return next season. The Hubs will also have three underclassmen in Owen Haas, John Green and Parker Lenkaitis eligible to come back next year. The Haas-Forsberg and Green-Lenkaitis combos each medaled at the Interstate 8 Conference tournament. With no seniors graduating from this year’s roster, expectations will be higher for next season.
“We want the kids to do better than we did this year,” Eckardt said. “We want to win more meets and we want to win more conference matches. I think we can score higher in the conference and we have the potential to get a few kids through to the state meet.”