The Naperville North tennis team's greatest strengths this year are its depth and an evenness of talent throughout the lineup.
In Thursday's season-opening match at Glenbard West, the Huskies displayed both those characteristics by sweeping the four doubles matches and defeating the host Hilltoppers 6-1.
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"These kids had so many brutal challenge matches in practice this week and that helped prepare us for today," Huskies coach Heather Henricksen said. "They're fighting for positions. Everyone wants to play at sectionals and they're all capable of it. We have that evenness in both singles and doubles."
Based on those challenge matches the doubles team of Steven Nguyen and Rohit Rastogi emerged on top and they proved worthy of their position with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Jack Kellenberger and Kenny Reick of the Hilltoppers.
Nguyen, a senior, is a doubles veteran and returning state qualifier, while Rastogi played some varsity doubles last year but mostly spent his time as the first-singles player on the Huskies' powerful sophomore team, where he won the DuPage Valley Conference championship.
"I knew I was going to play doubles this year," Rastogi said. "So I worked really hard on it in the off-season. The adjustment wasn't a big deal. Tennis is tennis."
"Rohit is aggressive at the net and he has a big serve," Nguyen said. "His serve helps me play stronger the net. And he's one of the hardest workers on the team."
Rastogi enjoys the doubles game and feels particularly fortunate to have been paired with a player like Nguyen.
"In doubles you've got somebody to share the pressure," Ratogi said. "And it's fun to talk and keep things light on the court. Steven has been playing doubles for a long time and he's really good at it. He's helping me round off the sharp corners of my game."
Henricksen believes that the Huskies' first doubles can qualify for state.
"They have great knowledge of the game and a high level of confidence on the court," she said. "Steven has always been good at the net and he builds his points well. But now as senior he has full control of his game. Rohit has great talent and they match up well."
Glenbard West freshman Nate Dell picked up the only point for the Hilltoppers with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Terrance Chen of Naperville North.
"Nate succeeds Matt Hirsch who was a four-year state qualifier," said Glenbard West coach Jim Valleskey. "His work level, strategy and conditioning are all terrific. He's patient and coachable. He showed good strength today. He will be a bright spot for us."
About Naperville North, Valleskey said: "Heather has four doubles teams that are interchangeable. That is quite a lineup. They're poised to win sectionals."