ROCKFORD — Auburn has won four consecutive sectional titles in women’s tennis and is favored to win an unusually tight and competitive NIC-10 tournament this weekend.
The Knights depend on senior Amy Park, three-time sectional champion Avery Trapp, who won the No. 2 conference singles title as a rookie last year, and juniors Rebecca Wang and Addysen Feng, who have each won a conference pair. doubles titles, to overtake Hononegah, Guilford and Boylan.
These four also got on all fours and worked hard this summer to help Auburn win long into the future. The group led a project to repair crack-strewn courts at Marshall Middle School, the main feeder school for Auburn’s tennis programs.
“We saw that the tennis community was dying,” Feng said. “There is no one else there. We don’t have enough players, so we selfishly tried to find other players for the Auburn team.
“It all started with Addysen,” Trapp said. “She was inspired by the Key Club and helping the community. She wanted her own personal project.
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Feng started by asking Coach Marshall if there was anything he could do to help. “Additional snowshoes? Food? Anything?” Feng said.
They provided additional instructions. The four players came twice a week after school last spring to help the coach. But other than that, what Marshall needed most was playable land. Marshall never holds a meet on his two courts, but that’s where he trains and both courts were a roadmap 2 inches wide and 2 inches deep.
“I once rolled my ankle after stepping into a crack,” Park said.
“When I was playing on those courts,” Trapp said, “a few times the ball would hit a crack and go sideways. You could almost put your foot in it, but not quite. I almost got stuck in it a couple of times. . »
The four knights were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was cheaper to repair the courts than they thought. They wrote an essay and filled out forms that helped them secure a $500 grant from the In Youth We Trust program through the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. That was all they needed to buy the cement and bitumen needed to repair the courts.
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But it also took a lot of work. Much more than they expected.
“We expected it to take a while,” Feng said. “But what surprised us were the cement sinks. We had to fill it. Again and again. We spent over 200 hours there.
“Every time we went to court, I was there,” Park said. “There were times when we worked from noon to 9 p.m. We would be on our knees – sometimes even our stomachs – fixing the courts.
The four received help from Auburn Key Club and UNICEF volunteers, but it still took most of June and July to repair the courts.
“You had to push the cement in with a tool and make sure you pushed it so the cement was completely solidified,” Trapp said. “If you just put it on and smooth it on top, it could get air pockets and lead to cracking again. We had to do it all several times. Push it. Flatten it. Push it. Flatten it until it is full.
“And you need to underfill rather than overfill.”
They learned it the hard way.
“There were times when we had skids and overflowed the concrete into the cracks,” Wang said. “That was the hardest part, where we had to get rid of it. We had an icebreaker and had to hit it.
“You have to be very careful not to overrun it. It’s really easy to pass the line. We have to stay fluid on the tennis court so that there are no injuries.
It took a lot of work.
“It’s crazy what Amy and Addysen have done,” Wang said. “They were working until dark, from day to dark.”
They didn’t mind.
“It was really satisfying to see the end result,” Park said. “I’m glad I was able to do this and help the community.”
“Finding good courts that don’t have cracks is such a difficult thing,” Wang said. “We are patching up the courts to encourage more middle schoolers to join the tennis team so that we can also recruit more players to Auburn to maintain the tennis program. It expands the tennis community.
Matt Trowbridge covered sports for the Rockford Register Star for more than 30 years, following previous stints in North Dakota, Delaware, Vermont and three years covering the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.