The Riverside-Brookfield tennis team will take a shot at out doing its 14 victories in dual matches last season with a mix of returning starters and talented newcomers this year.
Seniors Brad Wilson, Jake Dluhy and Max Recht along with junior Jack Kemper all return after starting for coach Brennan Denny last spring. Wilson has worked hard on his singles game, while the other three players figure to play significant roles in the Bulldogs’ doubles rotation. Ryan Gradishar and Jimmy Rock are two talented sophomores poised to move up to the varsity.
“Our major team goals include being competitive with each team in our conference and developing the tennis skills of our newcomers,” Denny said. “We need to develop the tennis skills not only of our freshman, but also for the handful of juniors and seniors who are playing competitive tennis for the very first time.”
Denny cited Timothy Christian and conference newcomer Glenbard South as teams to watch in the Metro Suburban Conference. The Bulldogs return five seniors in total, but the rest of their roster is relatively inexperienced.
In addition to a busy conference schedule, RB takes on rival/sectional opponent Nazareth in a highly anticipated matchup.
“We need to focus on approaching each practice as an opportunity to get better,” Denny said. “It might be working on a particular shot or just improving a certain aspect of our game.”
By his own admission, RB varsity head coach John Vermillion understandably had a few butterflies before his team’s season opener last week. The Bulldogs quickly quelled any anxiety for their new skipper by scoring seven runs in the first inning of what became a 13-1 victory over Westmont.
Cassie Cook crushed a double with the bases loaded that scored three runs during the Bulldogs’ first inning explosion. Kylie O’Connell (2-for-2, 2 runs) and Kiley Rusen (2-for-3, 2 runs) added solo home runs in the third frame, paving the way for a five-inning decision for RB. O’Connell picked up the win by allowing one run and three hits in four innings of efficient work.
“I was proud of the girls,” Vermillion said. “It’s a good win. I guess I feel a little more relieved now that we got the first [victory]. The girls had fun and played with intensity.”
Riverside-Brookfield (1-0) had 13 hits and made only one error as Vermillion played everybody on the roster.
The Bulldogs were scheduled to play four teams this week with home games against Oak Park on Friday (4:30 p.m.) and Immaculate Conception on Saturday (10 a.m., doubleheader).