Big hits, kicks and jumps
Highland’s girls tennis team again will have strong numbers this year, as they welcome back 21 players.
Senior state qualifiers Taylor Fleming, Kate Feldmann, and Ashlyn DeLuca are all back for coach Matt Pellock club, and he expects that trio to be a strong nucleus and lead the squad.
“They are my top three players and they all went to state last year, so we will definitely be built around them,” Pellock said.
Fleming will resume her role as No. 1 singles. Feldmann will play at No. 2 singles, and DeLuca returns at No. 3 singles.
As a junior, DeLuca qualified for state in her first year of playing and Fleming will be looking qualify for state in singles for the third straight season after making the cut as a sophomore and a junior. Feldman qualified for state in doubles play last year as a junior.
“We have a lot of experience at the top with those three,” Pellock said.
The No. 4-6 singles spots were still undecided as of this week.
“We’re still playing with that (those spots) and it’s probably going to be a couple of weeks before we get an idea of who will be there,” Pellock said.
Junior Sidney Basler, sophomore Krista Rittenhouse, Madison Clark, and senior Peyton Wernle are all expected to be significant contributors to the rotation in either singles or doubles flights. All of them have JV and/or varsity playing experience from last season.
“One of the big advantages we have is because we have that experience, we will be able to be able to play more JV teams that we can participate in tournaments and other events against teams,” Pellock said. “It will be nice to kind of have that depth this year.”
The Lady Bulldogs went 11-5 in match play last fall and expect to be just as strong if not better this season. Mississippi Valley rival Triad was the only Class 3A team to beat HHS last fall.
Highland, which finished second to Triad last year, will be looking to finish ahead of the Knights in the conference race. The trio of Fleming, Feldman, and DeLuca will look to close their careers on a high note by pushing the Lady Bulldogs to a third straight team sectional title.
“I think it would be great to be able to win the conference again and especially for them if they were to do it against a tough Triad team,” Pellock said. “I think it’s a (big) goal for especially our top returning girls and I think that if they were able to do that again it would be a great way to kind have a like a send off for them.”
HHS is scheduled to open the season at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, at O’Fallon.