The roles may be a bit different, but there are a lot of things the same for the Aberdeen Roncalli girls’ tennis team this season.
Hallie Rohrbach moves from assistant to head coach, while Jason Haskell joins his wife Kelly Rae as an assistant. The majority of the lineup also returns from a year ago, plus got a boost from a transfer.
Roncalli still features a young team with Hallie Haskell being the lone senior.
Rohrbach said the girls have had a solid week of practice.
“We’re just really focused on kind of setting goals as a team, goals as individuals,” she said. “We were able to do a lot of drilling, a lot of fundamentals, a lot of skill work development.”
The Cavaliers feature many players with comparable skill sets, which makes setting a lineup interesting.
“We have a few players with a similar skill level,” Rohrbach said. “We’ve kind of just been trying to figure that out.”
The squad will be led by Hallie Haskell, last year’s top player. The senior has a lot of weapons, according to Rohrbach.
“She is one of the most incredible players that I’ve watched play. I got to work with her a lot last year. Any tool that you can have in your tool box, Hallie has. She can do anything she wishes,” Rohrbach said. “She’s a power house. That girl can hit the ball. She can serve like no one’s business. She’s played her whole life.”
Another key member of the squad figures to be Maria Barnett, who transferred over from Aberdeen Central.
“Maria is a great addition. She is a strong player. She has a very strong serve. She has a consistent game. She has good fundamentals in all of your areas,” Rohrbach said. “I would say her biggest weapon is probably her serve, and then her ability to play at a pretty high level of intensity to finish any point. She also has good ball placement. She can hit angles really well. She can definitely hit the shots she chooses.”
Additional help will come from a trio of sophmores: twins Raley and River Haskell, and Katherine Kretchman. All competed in tournaments this summer and honed their skills.
“I’m really proud of them for that. I think at that age at that level that’s really what’s its all about is repetition, just going and hitting rep after rep, getting as many matches as you can,” Rohrbach said. “One thing I really admire about those girls is they’re often playing girls much older than them and they’re often playing girls that have been playing at the varsity level two, sometimes even three or four years. They really go into those matches confidently.”
Other girls expected to play a key role include Eva Madsen and Anna Mitzel.
The Cavaliers will not waste any time starting their season, hosting a triangular on Tuesday against Huron and Mitchell. Action starts at 10 a.m. at the Northern State Courts.
Rohrbach said the team (which includes a cooperative with Aberdeen Christian) is focused on playing and conducting themselves the right way.
“We kind of just talked about keeping God at the forefront. Being Christian schools, one thing that I was passionate when taking over this program was that spiritual component and that spiritual development of the girls as well,” Rohrbach said, “keeping God at the forefront, knowing that we’re wearing crosses on our jerseys. We’re representing Him. That’s more important than any game that we’re going to play.”
The team is doing a study on a book entitled “The Inner Game of Tennis.” Rohrbach said the book deals with the mental aspect of the game and how to handle adversity.
“It focuses on those mental attitudes and that mental toughness that you learn in tennis, but that is so much more than tennis that these girls will have and use for their whole life,” Rohrbach said. “My big focus for the girls is the philosophy that the match is won or lost before it’s ever played,” pointing out the mental game, conditioning, training and attitude. “Lastly, we talked a lot about it’s not necessarily how far down you get, it’s how you come back, how you fight back.”
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