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After playing No. 4 singles the past two seasons, Rachel Petry is off to a 9-0 start at the No. 2 singles position for the North Haven girls’ tennis team this spring. Rachel, a senior captain, is a member of the National Honor Society, in addition to serving as her class secretary and a Board of Education representative. She will study business at Northeastern University in Boston. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Petry )
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Rachel Petry put together two stellar seasons as the No. 4 singles player for North Haven girls’ tennis team, but had to face a major challenge when she was bumped up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup this spring. Rachel diligently worked on her game during the offseason, came into the campaign ready to take on more responsibility, and has a 9-0 record playing No. 2 singles for the Indians. In fact, the senior captain hasn’t even dropped a set.
“My goal was to play 2 singles,” says Rachel, whose career singles record is 42-7. “I’ve been playing for a really long time, I love the sport, and I wanted to play at the most competitive level that I could. No. 2 singles is the perfect spot for me. It’s awesome.”
Rachel began playing tennis when she was in 3rd grade and, a few years later, she started playing on a year-round basis. Rachel has spent plenty of time on the court at North Haven Health & Racquet and The Tennis & Fitness Center of Rocky Hill, in addition to coaching in the juniors’ program at the High Lane Club.
Rachel says that getting these extra reps not only keeps her in tip-top physical shape, it also prepares her for the mental battle that tennis players have to endure.
“It’s helped me so much. It keeps me calmer, and I always feel more prepared,” Rachel says. “It gives me confidence, and I’m not as nervous going into most matches, because I know I put in my best effort during the offseason and during the season. Whatever the outcome is, I worked for it either way.”
Rachel’s tennis pedigree helped her land a spot in North Haven’s lineup in her freshman year, when she played No. 2 doubles alongside Sejal Atluru. The following season, Rachel earned a promotion to the singles’ circuit and posted a record of 15-4 at the No. 4 position. As a junior last spring, she improved to 18-3.
With the graduation of Olivia Hoyt and Hillary Hoyt, who played 2 and 3 singles, respectively, the past two seasons, Rachel was the heir apparent to step into the No. 2 spot this year. Rachel kicked up her training regimen a couple of notches, saying that she “put in the most effort in any offseason,” because she wanted to be ready for the rigors of the No. 2 position.
However, even with all the preparation in the world, there comes a time when you have to get out there and play, and Rachel quickly found out that life was going to be a little more difficult playing No. 2 singles. As a result, she had to adjust accordingly.
“A lot of No. 4 players are strictly consistent, and No. 2 players are also consistent, but they have more strategy and more pace on the ball. And so the greatest difficulty was adjusting how to play more competitive players and adjusting my own strategy to combat that,” Rachel says. “By picking out a weakness they have, going to the net more, working on my serve, and being able to place the ball in different places during each point—it’s been pretty helpful. It’s stuff that I didn’t need to do when I played at the 4.”
Rachel says that increased confidence is also playing a big part in her success at No. 2 singles, and she got a big jolt of confidence by grinding out a win against an opponent from Mercy in her first match. Although Rachel has yet to face some of her toughest adversaries this year, she feels thrilled to have an unblemished record through the first half of the campaign.
“It’s really nice. It feels good to be contributing like I am now, and I’m really trying to prop the team up in some of the closer matches,” says Rachel. “It’s definitely been an interesting experience. It’s the hardest position I’ve played, so going into it, I didn’t know if I could have the record I have right now, but it’s really good to support the team at the No. 2 singles spot.”
Head Coach Bob Migliorini says that Rachel has made a seamless transition to No. 2 singles this season. Migliorini knows that Rachel’s years of experience on the court have helped her develop the skills that she needs to succeed at that prominent position.
“Rachel has a really nice forehand and can really drive the ball and place it, so she can move girls around the court, open up the court, and then come up and hit a winner, or volley and put the ball away. She has weapons she can utilize to beat girls, which is important to have,” Migliorini says. “Rachel has also become more consistent the last few years. She’s making fewer unforced errors, which is key.”
Rachel is also one of North Haven’s captains, sharing that role with fellow senior Avery Hill and junior Julia Migliorini. As a team leader, Rachel takes great pride in the fact that the Indians are off to a 7-2 start after they lost several key players to graduation.
While it means a lot to Rachel that she’s faring so well this year, she’s even happier that her victories are helping North Haven maintain its reputation as one of the top squads in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
“This is honestly the best-case scenario that I could have hoped for. I’m having a good senior year personally and, as a team, we are having a great year. Hopefully, we can keep working hard and keep enjoying it, because we’re having a nice time this year, and I think we can have a great rest of the season,” Rachel says. “I’ve been playing in North Haven since I was little kid, and it definitely feels like an achievement to do well for North Haven, even more than personally. It’s satisfying to do well for them, more than just myself.”
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