WILMINGTON — It’s never easy for a team to go through a rebuilding process, but that’s precisely where the Wilmington High Girls tennis team finds itself right now as it prepares for the upcoming season. .
The Wildcats are actually in the second year of a rebuilding process that saw them go 1-15 last season after back-to-back 11-win seasons the previous two years, but things are definitely moving in the right direction this season.
After losing stars like Emily Hill, Carolyn Roney and Lia Kourkoutas two years ago, the Wildcats last season were forced to say goodbye to three more talented seniors, as Lauren D’Arco, Johanna Robinson and Vidhi Shah are all graduates of Wilmington High. But even with the deep roster cuts, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the Wildcats and ninth-year coach Matt Hackett.
The Wildcats may have played one game last season, but they have played several competitive games over the course of the season. And although they have lost three of their best players, they have also seen several of their young players gain valuable experience, which they hope will pay dividends this season.
“Without a doubt, we hope to improve from last season,” Hackett said. “It’s tough going through a rebuild and losing more players from the roster isn’t the perfect time, but at the same time we’re very excited to see who can step in and fill the void, and I think we have players who can do that.”
Among the players Hackett will be looking for to play a key role will be the youngest player on the roster, with rookie Shubhangi Tripathi entering the first singles sport for the Wildcats. It’s a spot she earned through wins in challenge matches during pre-season training, and Hackett is confident in her ability to compete in that role. The Middlesex League number one single can be tough, but Tripathi appears to be up for the challenge.
“I noticed her from the first or second day of tryouts, she was picking up a lot of points, so I moved her to play some of the veterans, and she was still picking up a lot of points,” Hackett said. “So I set her up with challenge matches and she beat both Carolyn (Hass-Timm) and Alyssa (Fricia). She just made her way to first place.
“I don’t know her game a thousand percent yet, but I know she’s consistent and has good ball placement. As a freshman playing first singles, you know she’ll face some adversity, but she’ll learn from it and fight through it.
Following Tripathi in singles, junior co-captain Alyssa Fricia in second singles and junior co-captain Carolyn Hass-Timm, who will reprise her role in third singles. While Hass will return to her familiar spot in the third singles, Fricia will make the jump to the first doubles where last season she was paired with Johanna Robinson.
“Alyssa’s game improved a lot last season and she’s looking good this season,” Hackett said. “She’s a really good athlete. She’s quick and she has good stamina. She’s also just an incredibly positive and humble human being. Along with that, she has a huge desire to compete. I knew she was ready. to compete in superior singles, and being a great captain, she wants to succeed in second singles.
Hass-Timm also very readily accepted her role in the third singles. While some veteran players may have complained about losing a potential number one spot to a freshman, Fricia and Hass-Timm did nothing but support their new teammate.
“Carolyn was a huge example of someone who stood up for us last season. Getting her to play third singles for us last year was a huge ask, but she stepped up and did it. The player she was at the end of the season wasn’t even close to the start of the season. I think it’s great that with the emergence of Shubhangi, she can stay in third place. And that is a great captain and ready to do what is best for the team.
The Wildcats’ first doubles team will consist of sophomores Madison Benoit and Sophia LaVita, who both made the jump from second doubles last season. Hackett is confident they are ready to take on the added responsibility of being the best doubles duo.
“We’re very lucky to be able to keep them together,” Hackett said. “It’s a new challenge for them, but they have that cohesion and they’re playing well together. They’ve both improved a lot from last season, so it’ll be great to see what they can do in the matches. first doubles.
Junior Julia Kane and senior Medha Pal will likely be the Wildcats’ second pair of doubles, along with second pair Priscilla Vo, as well as other players who may find their way into the mix.
“The second double because that point is more like a spin,” Hackett said. “I don’t see a lot of difference between a lot of players, but a lot of them are playing well. We’ll see if anyone steps in, or we can just keep this rotating.
It would of course be impossible to predict what kind of season the Wildcats will have in terms of wins and losses in a rebuilding year like this. But, as a coach who has already gone through rebuilds with the tennis program, Hackett is eager to see how far his team can progress this season.
“When you’ve been doing this for a while like me and you know how the cycle goes, it can be pretty exciting, especially when you’re working with a big group of girls like us,” Hackett said. “We have 22 amazing girls, and for me that’s the best part of training.”