Sophomores bring the heat

Luckey, Dudy progress from JV to varsity

Aria Jain, assistant sports editor

It is match point. Tension fills the air as sophomore Shannon Dudy, varsity tennis player, awaits her partner’s serve. She hears the smack of the ball against the racket, and seconds later, her opponent sends the ball sailing into the net. She turns to her partner with a huge smile as they celebrate a monumental win against one of the highest-ranked teams in Illinois.

When Dudy reflects on her journey from playing singles on junior varsity (JV) last year to thriving as a varsity doubles player this year, she attributes her newfound success to her unwavering playing style and confidence in her game.

“I always try to stick to my own game,” Dudy said. “I try not [to] let my nerves get the best of me and focus on the years of hard work I’ve put into tennis, especially because of the huge difference in competition between [JV] and varsity.”

Transitioning from playing JV singles to varsity doubles this year was one of Dudy’s most significant challenges going into the tennis season. However, Dudy said she appreciates the camaraderie of having a doubles partner as singles was often lonely and required more mental fortitude.

“I [was not] used to being with a partner as singles can get really lonely,” Dudy said. “With doubles, I was able to develop my netplay and evolve as a player. I had a lot of fun, and it was nice to have a friend on the court.”

The challenges and memories that come with transitioning teams is an experience sophomore Maddie Luckey, varsity basketball player, was nervous yet excited to face. After jumping from JV to the starting varsity lineup this year, Luckey said that the high caliber of players inspired her to do her best in the new position.

“While [the transition] was stressful, it inspires me to be my best when I am playing with other strong athletes,” Luckey said. “I feel like it makes me a better person, and I’ve become more confident with being on the court.”

Luckey’s growth in her passion and talent for the sport was a crucial factor in the decision Scott Nemecek, head girls’ varsity basketball coach, made to place her in the starting wing position.

“You can see the improvement,” Nemecek said. “She was dominant last year, but this year, it’s harder to be more dominant because everybody is good, but she is learning and working to keep improving.”

Nemecek credited Luckey’s growing arsenal of skills, citing her ability to understand the learning curve of guarding stronger players as a sophomore.

“Her speed and strength on offense are tremendous,” Nemecek said. “When she starts dribbling full speed, no one [is] taking the ball from her.

Nemecek emphasized Luckey has become a vital part of the team, and has helped the team excel this year.

“[Luckey] has played extremely hard,” Nemecek said. “When [Luckey] performs well on the court, you can [see her] inspiring the rest of the team.”

Luckey believes the unbreakable bond between her teammates gave her the ability to keep pushing against different opponents and raise team morale.

“I keep [my teammates] very close to my heart,” Luckey said. “I can always count on my teammates to be there for me and make me feel like the best version of myself.”

Similarly, Dudy appreciated the welcoming team dynamic fostered by the girls and said the atmosphere helped push her against better competitors. With more than half of the team graduating, Dudy looks forward to filling the shoes of her teammates.

“After already being on the varsity team for one year; I need to step up and make people feel a part of a great team, like my team did for me,” Dudy said