Riverside-Brookfield girls tennis coach Robert Hegner likes to quote a famous author regarding the Bulldogs’ apparent lack of depth this season. John Steinbeck’s “A boy becomes a man when a man is needed” saying has become a motivational tagline about accountability for RB this fall.
“Honestly, I felt a little nervous about the season,” Hegner said after practice last week. “A few factors put us in a hole with a relatively low turnout of players and a key injury [Claire Wilson] to one of our top players. A lot of girls are going to have to take a step up and maybe even a second step.”
So far, so good for RB which is off to a 3-0 start. Last year, the Bulldogs recorded a solid 16-6 campaign and fourth place showing at the Metro Suburban Conference tournament.
“RB tennis doesn’t really have any stars,” Hegner said. “We can usually get some wins against other teams in the lower part of the lineup, and [then] hopefully take at least 50 percent or better of the top end matchups.”
Make no mistake, the Bulldogs clearly have some talent between the lines led off by No. 1 singles player Salem Baer. Replacing graduated Madison Powers, Baer has a very good first serve along with movement, consistency and endurance. Promising underclassmen Nina Dorenbos and Victoria Bojovic will play No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty good team this year,” Baer said. “We have a great group of girls, especially younger kids. I’m a little nervous moving up to first singles because there’s a lot of good competition. I have always played singles at RB, so I finally got what I wanted [varsity singles No. 1].”
In doubles, former singles player Emily O’Connor will join Sarah Benya as the Bulldogs’ top tandem. O’Connor, whose junior campaign was cut short due to tendonitis in her wrist, appears good to go this fall.
“As a singles player most of my time at RB, I have always been a ball hog,” O’Connor said with a laugh. “Coming into first doubles has been interesting and new. I love having someone on the court with you for support.”
Samantha Goldsmith and a host of candidates vying for the other spot will hold down No. 2 doubles.