September 18, 2014

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Girls tennis 2014: Avon’s Rini facing tough challenge at first singles

Avon senior Madisyn Rini will be facing some tough competition this year as the Eagles’ first singles player. PHOTO PROVIDED

Avon senior Madisyn Rini will be facing some tough competition this year as the Eagles’ first singles player. PHOTO PROVIDED

Success hasn’t exactly eluded Madisyn Rini. The Avon senior won the Lorain County Athletic Administrators Association and West Shore Conference tennis tournaments at third singles as a freshman then played first singles on junior- and senior-laden teams her next two seasons.

She also teamed with Annie DeLuca to make the Division I district doubles tournament as a sophomore and was a key member of teams that won back-to-back-to-back LCAAA championships and two straight WSC tourney titles.

Still, it’s been an adjustment playing first singles. Facing the top player on every team, including some of the toughest competition in the state, has led to less individual success the past two years.

“It was really difficult,” Rini said. “It was such a big difference going from third (singles) to first. It was a really big leap but I’m glad I did it. I gained a ton of experience and I learned a lot of lessons. Now I love playing first singles and can’t wait for this season.”

Rini emerged from the past two seasons stronger and more determined.

“I definitely feel way more comfortable this season,” Rini said. “Since I’ve been at first singles for a few years, I feel more experienced and now, as a captain, I know I have to set the example for everyone to follow. I know what to expect now, and that’s been helpful.”

Avon coach Caroline Hughes said the biggest difference in Rini is her self-confidence.

“I think she believes in herself a bit more this year,” Hughes said. “It was tough being behind all those seniors. You grow up as you go on with it. I definitely see her believing in herself more. If you go out and you believe, you’ll play a lot better.”

Rini was working toward her first LCAAA Tournament championship at first singles last year when a knee injury cost her against two-time first singles champion Erin Hrivnak of Avon Lake. The injury hampered Rini the rest of the season and she ended up taking third at the WSC Tournament and wasn’t able to repeat her district performance from the previous year.

“My upper thigh muscle, near my kneecap, gave out,” Rini said. “I missed some matches because I could barely walk and I had to wear a knee brace for a while, but it eventually stopped hurting. It might have cost me districts, but to me, wearing the knee brace was a struggle and may have played into it more.

“Now, it’s perfectly fine. I didn’t need any surgery or anything, thankfully. Hopefully, it doesn’t flare up during this season.”

The run to districts as a sophomore was an eye-opening experience for Rini, and one she hopes will serve her well going forward.

“Qualifying for districts was amazing,” she said. “Everyone played at such a high level and I hope to go back because it was such an experience. Annie DeLuca, who was a junior at that time, definitely taught me a lot since she was good at doubles. We practiced together a lot and we became a tight team. She helped me out and I hope to teach the other girls what she taught me.”

Rini said she was thankful she had the chance to go up against players such as Hrivnak, Magnificat three-time state qualifier Emily Witt, Bay district qualifier Katy Quillin and Westlake’s Lauren Golick and Julia Dunbar.

“They were such great players, but they also gave me confidence and experience,” Rini said. “Now they’ve graduated, but since I got that great experience playing against them, hopefully I’ll be near the top this year.

“My goals for this year are to win the LCAAA and WSC, make it out of sectionals and into districts and hopefully into state. I’ll see how the season goes, but I am comfortable with playing both (singles and doubles) positions once we get into postseason, and feel confident that I can accomplish my goals from either spot.”

Rini’s been playing tennis since she was 10 years old, taking lessons from Rich Mostardi at North Ridge Racquet Club and now at Avon Oaks Country Club.

“My dad (Mario) played tennis, but it wasn’t forced on me,” she said. “I actually tried every single sport, but when I played tennis, it just clicked for me and I absolutely loved it. I’ve been playing at the USTA level since I was in eighth grade.

“It really helped, the last three years, having a great team around me. Now those people have graduated, but now I have more confidence in myself. Now we have freshmen coming in that are really good and I feel we should remain a good team not just this year, but for the next few years.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.

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