In addition to her duties as head girls tennis coach, Joyce Anderson is embracing a new role this fall at Evanston Township High School.
So if any of the current Wildkit netters are thinking about trying to play tennis in college, Anderson is definitely the one who can point them in the right direction.
Anderson’s newly-created position as an advisor for college bound student-athletes will benefit all the school’s athletes. Her other challenge? To build depth for her own team, which opens Tuesday at Oak Park-River Forest.
Evanston returns one state qualifier in junior Jessica Ampel and should be strong at the top positions, led by senior Rachel Clemens and juniors Abbey Moore and Sam Mulica. But another returning state qualifier — junior Kate Kremin — has decided to focus instead on soccer, and a couple of other players are currently on the shelf due to injuries suffered during pre-season practice.
Like most coaches in the Central Suburban League South division, now Anderson will have to sort out the doubles pairings for a lineup that figures to be fluid until all of the pieces are in place.
“Last year we had so many seniors coming back, we already knew who was going to be playing together. So on Day 1 of practice we immediately started working on doubles strategy,” the coach said. “But with so many new players this year, we’ve had other things to work on. A lot of them are young and inexperienced. We’ll work on getting those young kids some confidence first.
“It’s a challenge because I have to do more teaching this year. But these young kids are very good, and they’re willing to take what I have to say and apply it. They’re very coachable.”
Anderson is excited about the opportunity to help more than just her own tennis players at ETHS. She played collegiate tennis at Columbia University and hopes to help prospective college players and their families reach their goals once they leave Evanston.
“It’s a ground-breaking position and I’ll be a supplement to the counselors here,” Anderson pointed out. “It’s really fantastic that I’ve been asked to do this. My hope is to get them eligible and taking the right courses that they need whether they’re interested in playing Division I or Division III.
“When I was in high school I was recruited, but mostly through the national tournaments I played in. I didn’t know at that time that I should be sending letters or tapes to schools. We’re going to put a lot of information on the school website, too.”
Ampel’s surge over the second half of the season last fall netted her a singles berth at the Illinois High School Association state tournament, along with Kremin and graduated doubles partner Olivia Luby. Ampel won one of her three matches and is looking to extend her post-season stay this fall.
Both of her parents played at Dartmouth University and her father, Ross, scored top 5 state finishes twices while competing at Glenbrook North in the early 1980s.
“Jessica has Division I potential, although she’s such an excellent student that I think she’s more interested in playing Division III,” said Anderson. “She really peaked at the right time last year. She’s continued to work hard and she’s improved a ton. She has a bigger, heavier serve and I think she’s much quicker, too, because of the weight training she’s done. She’s really driven to succeed.
“I suggested strength training to all of the girls, but they’re the ones who had to follow through on it. When I played I worked with a personal trainer once or twice a week, and even though I’m under 5 feet tall, I was never overpowered by anyone. I wish they’d all do that kind of training.”
Ampel and Moore were the squad’s 1-2 singles players a year ago and, along with Clemens and Mulica, they’ll also take turns playing doubles. Mulica’s improved backhand could land her a berth at No. 1 doubles and according to their coach, “all four of them are playing great right now.”
Others who figure to make an impact include two seniors who are trying to come back from injuries, Charly Dickerson (shin splints) and Lily Dube (concussion). Sophomore Karin Komiyana has been cleared to play following a bout with viral meningitis.
Junior Nora Ivey and sophomores Katherine Mann and Meghan TerMolen also figure to challenge for playing time, along with Izzy Aurichio, Beth Parcell, Dorie Ross, Lauren Ross and Julia Danson.