With the exception of a couple of seniors, the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls tennis team features a bunch of new names on the varsity roster.
The hardest part for veteran coach Bob Hegner might simply be getting all the girls names right.
“We have a girl whose name is Kathe (Pribyl Pierdinock), but she likes to be called Katie even though it’s spelled differently,” Hegner said. “Another girl’s name is Sara (Dorenbos) but she goes by Sally. And then we have two girls with the same first name, Grace (Taber, Gersch).”
If the Bulldogs maintain their winning ways, the relatively unknown group could quickly become a household name in the confines of Metro Suburban Conference tennis.
RBHS is off to a 3-0 start with victories over Trinity, Elmwood Park and Immaculate Conception. The Bulldogs also won 6 of 7 first sets in seven matches against Addison Trail before rain suspended play. Until the Bulldogs and Blazers resume those matches, consider it a split decision against Mother Nature.
“We are off to a pretty good start but it can be a little misleading,” Hegner said. “We will be playing some tough opponents in our conference division.”
Nevertheless, an undefeated start never hurts a team’s mojo. The team’s promising start is attributable to contributions from many players.
Pribyl Pierdinock and Fierra Mulhern are the Bulldogs’ top two singles players.
“Kathe played first doubles as a sophomore last year,” Hegner said. “You could see her development. It looks like things could work out well for her at first singles this season. Kathe’s mom is a tennis player as well and they play together. Kathe has gained some good experience playing tennis.”
Dorenbos and Gersch are No. 1 doubles, while Grace Taber and Megan Riordan hold down No. 2 doubles.
Junior Evie Roth plays both singles and doubles for the Bulldogs. Olivia Moyer is a promising sophomore on the varsity roster.
Jillian Kay Cadungog, Molly Durkin and Kathleen Mary Shereck comprise the rest of the listed roster. RBHS also has a handful of promising underclassmen players who play either varsity or junior varsity matches depending on whether matches are a 2 singles/3 doubles or 3 singles/4 doubles format.
“My philosophy is I want to same as many girls playing matches as possible,” Hegner said.
According to Hegner, one aspect of the game his players can improve on is net play.
“The girls in our program aren’t good volleyers,” he said. “They really shy away from the net which can lead to their undoing at times. It’s important to take advantage of balls that fall inside the service line. When a ball falls short in the court, whether on purpose or just a weak hit by the opponent, we shouldn’t always be on the baseline.”
With 32 players in the program overall, the Bulldogs’ numbers are solid. This is also the second season RBHS has enjoyed the benefit of a true home court advantage with five courts on campus. In previous years, while the current courts were under construction, RBHS played its matches at the Oak Brook Tennis Center.
The Bulldogs’ toughest matches this year are still to be played. Timothy Christian, Wheaton Academy and St. Francis will provide plenty of competition in conference.
“We’ve had quite a turnover this year because we lost so many seniors last season,” Hegner said. “In that regard, it’s never been worse than this season.
“I always tell our players about a John Steinbeck story when I taught about how a boy becomes a man when a man is needed,” Hegner added. “At RB, a player becomes a varsity player when a varsity player is needed.”
As players become more accountable at the varsity level, the team’s future appears bright.
“We primarily have juniors and a couple of sophomores on the varsity,” Hegner said. “I really like the players we have down at the bottom, too, our varsity reserve. All these girls are getting varsity experience, and they’ll be better players for it.”
RBHS takes on Fenton (Thursday, Sept. 6; 4:30 p.m.) in Bensenville. The Bulldogs’ match against the Bison kicks off seven straight matches on the road.