MARBLEHEAD — The Marblehead girls tennis team has a lot to live up to after last season, but the Magicians are back with a veteran roster and ready for the challenge. Marblehead returns five of its seven starters from a year ago, including their best player in senior Michelle Shub.
The Magicians went 19-2 last year, making it as far as the semifinals before losing to powerhouse Newburyport. Shub did not play in that match, as she was sidelined with pneumonia at the time.
“Last year was a successful season even though we had a tough loss at the end without our best player,” said Marblehead coach Tracy Ackerman. “But even though we were undermanned, we still competed really hard and made it a 3-2 game. And with most of our players coming back this year, they’re all hungry to get another crack at the tournament.”
Shub returns for her senior season as the No. 1 player for Marblehead.
“She’s been our No. 1 since her freshman year, and I think she’s one of the best players in the area hands down,” Ackerman said of Shub. “She sets the example for the other players with her work ethic and her skills.”
Also leading the way for the Magicians will be senior Simone Likterov, who has been one of their top doubles players for the past few seasons. Junior Hannah Porath, entering her third year with the varsity squad, will also be looked at as a leader.
“Simone is a fireplug, and she’s the emotional leader of our team for sure,” said Ackerman. “Hannah is another three-year player for us, and she’ll definitely be someone we count on throughout the season.”
The main objective for Ackerman, who is entering her third season with Marblehead, is to figure out her starting lineup. She has two of her singles spots locked in with Shub at No. 1 and Porath at No. 2, but there’s still an open question about who will be No. 3. Likterov will take her rightful place as one half of the No. 1 doubles pairing, but there’s a number of girls who are vying for the other three doubles positions. Junior sisters Cahill and Canaan Whittier were a great duo last season, but may be split up this year. Also knocking on the door of the starting lineup are sophomores Tess Keaney and Jessie Munroe.
“It’s going to be tough, because we have so many girls who can contribute,” said Ackerman. “They’ve all had a lot of success with us already, so it’s up to me to put them all in a position where they can continue to have success and also help the team as much as possible.”
The Magicians will once again play a tough schedule to prepare for their hopeful tournament run. Games against Lynnfield, Manchester-Essex, Newburyport and Winchester highlight the difficult path.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough non-conference schedule for us this year, and the NEC is also going to be better so we have to stay focused,” said Ackerman. “Our first goal is always to win the NEC, and that’s not going to change now.”
Marblehead opens up the season Tuesday afternoon (4) against NEC foe Winthrop.