READING — Failing to qualify for the Division 2 North tournament for just the second time in 17 seasons, the Reading High girls’ tennis team is aiming for the postseason.
With an abundance of juniors and seniors returning after last year’s 7-9 campaign, the Lady Rockets are optimistic about a return to the tournament.
“We had a very young team, and we also had some injuries along the way,’’ said coach Roberta DiPierro, who is now entering her 18th season. “We lost our No. 1 singles player to injury for three or four matches last season, and it really came down to the last week if we were going to qualify for the tournament. We had to move people up in the lineup and we battled some tough teams to some close matches. In the end, we came up just short for tournament qualification.”
Leading the way for the Lady Rockets will be the senior captains Ainsley Cohen, Rita Gyruko, Brenna Sullivan and Mari Verrier.
Cohen and Verrier, who developed into one of the Lady Rockets’ solid tandems at first doubles, should once again be teammed and should be among the top pairings in the Middlesex League.
Sullivan is scheduled to grab the No. 2 singles spot. Gyurko, is not tentatively penciled in as the starting lineup, but should see some action between third singles and either first or second doubles.
“We have some great captains and leadership that have exemplified themselves both on and off the court,’’ said DiPierro. “The captains are working well with the younger players on the team and I’m very excited about the upcoming season. They’ve practiced in the off-season and they’ve been on top of their game.”
Other players that are included in DiPierro’s lineup include junior Rachel McDonald, who will play at No. 1 singles followed by fellow junior Olivia Ziegler at the No. 3.
At second doubles for the Lady Rockets will be the junior duo Lauren Stevens and Caitlin Stroudt.
“We have a lot of people coming back from last year’s team and we only lost one senior,’’ said DiPierro. “We have some experience and depth to work with as well as some promising newcomers to the team that we plan on working in at some point in the season.”
Other key returning players for the Lady Rockets include junior Kate Bergeron, who is vying as both a singles and doubles player. Rounding out the varsity lineup includes the junior group of Alex Lermond, Vithlu Rajadurai along with newcoming freshmen Ciara Keane, Carlee Lermond and Maya Szeczenyi.
“We feel like we have a solid lineup this season, and we’re definitely looking to improve from last year,’’ said DiPierro. “With the experience gained from last year combined with the new talent that we’ve acquired this season, we feel we should be able to compete for a spot in the tournament.”
As for tough teams in the Liberty Division, DiPierro expects Winchester and Lexington to once again be the top teams in the division.
“The Middlesex League is always tough and there are no easy matches in this league,’’ said DiPierro. “We’re just taking our game one game at a time and just take it from there. We’re just looking to improve with each and every practice and game.”
The Lady Rockets will open the season on Wednesday when they’ll travel to face Watertown.
READING BOYS TENNIS PREVIEW
READING — Following an 11-5 regular-season mark last season, the Reading High boys tennis team qualified for the Division 2 North tournament but succumbed to Belmont in its first-round match.
“We had a relatively young team, but we’ve added some depth and experience during the off-season,’’ said Reading coach Bruce Appleby. “The boys have really worked hard over the past two seasons, and it’s been great two weeks of the pre-season. We’re finalizing our lineups and the guys are ready to go and compete in matches.”
Appleby, now entering his 55th season, has selected his tri-captains in seniors Kyle Heinold and Ryan Sullivan. Also serving as the third captain for the Rockets include junior Alec Plano.
Currently, Appleby has Heinold and Sulluvan penciled in as the Rockets’ first doubles’ team while Plano and fellow junior Griffin Collins should solidify the second doubles’ tandem.
“We have some solid combinations in our doubles’ teams and they should be able to help us get some key points in some of our tough matches of the season,’’ said Appleby. “I’ve been very encouraged with what I’ve seen so far from the boys and they’re out there working hard and working hard during the challenge matches.”
At No. 1 singles will be junior Chris Sewall followed by Matt Gyrko at No. 2. At third singles the challenge matches have been intense as juniors Charlie Cribb and John Gardner are competing for the final spot.
“The battle at No. 3 is pretty much up for grabs,’’ said Appleby. “Right now we haven’t committed to anyone at third singles, but it’s going to come down between those two players.”
Another doubles’ combination that could see some court time will be juniors Cam Shankland and Zach Tzianabos. Other players in the mix include senior Ben Rotstein and Pat Metzger, who should see some playing time rotating between third singles and some sort of doubles’ combinations.
“We have a lot of depth, and that should really help us,’’ said Appleby. “The kids should be fine when the regular season starts.”
As for promising freshmen, the Rockets are bolstered by the trio of Jack Egan, Gian Savis and Previ Shimansky,
“We have a few freshmen that have looked very impressive so far;’’ said Appleby. “We still have to work to where we want to be, but we’re heading in the right direction. The kids are very excited and are looking forward to the season. We’ll just have to take things one match at a time.”
As for the top teams in the Middlesex League, Appleby expects both Lexington and Winchester, as usual, to battle for supremacy in the Liberty Division. The Rockets should be among the top tier teams once again.
“The kids have gained a lot of experience and they’ve practiced very hard in the off-season,” said Appleby. “I’ve been very happy with the progress of the team and we should be in good shape heading into the season,”
The Rockets will start their season on Wednesday when they’ll host Watertown at 3:45 p.m.