By David Willis
---- — Now in her fourth year as a varsity standout, having played countless matches against the best the state has to offer, Andover High senior Rachel Holzman knows she has experienced just about everything a high school tennis player could see.
“With all the experiences and all the different things you go though during a meet, I feel like I have done it all,” said Holzman. “So now I go into every match with a good feeling. I remember what it was like when I was a freshman, how scary it was. I want to do for our younger girls what the older players did for me back then.”
The former freshman hotshot is now one of three seniors that have taken on the leadership role for the Golden Warriors that stand at 6-1 through Monday, joined by Annie Garvin and Julia Alagero.
“I couldn’t imagine being captain with two other girls,” said Garvin. “They are such great girls and great leaders. The girls look up to them, and we are working to do the best job that we can.”
For Holzman, who emerged as a varsity player first as a member of the No. 1 doubles team before taking on the No. 2 singles spot later in her freshman year, the chance to guide the younger players is one she is more than happy to take on.
“I was very fortunate to see time on the varsity team as a freshman,” said Holzman, who is 6-1 between No. 1 and 2 singles this season. “It was definitely very nerve-wracking to be so young and be playing older players. But our older players really made me feel comfortable. Each year I feel like I have evolved as a player. So I want to be welcoming and do everything I can for the younger girls.”
Holzman delivered her best season to date last year, earning All-MVC honors after going 10-1 in the MVC. She was also a starting midfielder for the soccer team and ranks in the top 20 percent of her high school class.
“I really learned a lot from being on the soccer team,” she said. “We did a lot, and I want to bring that team chemistry to tennis, which can become a very individual sport.”
Garvin has split time between No. 1 and 2 doubles this season, often exchanging spots with Alagero, who was part of the All-MVC doubles team with Savannah Deady last season. She said the opportunity to be a captain has been both strange and rewarding.
“It’s so different than past years,” said Garvin. “It’s weird being both a teammate and a leader. You have to know the line between being a role model and still being a teammate.”
The captains took on an even more crucial role when Alan Hibino was hired as head coach to replace Jen Deschenes, head coach the last six years who stepped down before the season.
“These three girls have been a tremendous asset,” said Hibino, the longtime assistant boys basketball coach. “I inherited them as captains from coach Deschenes, but she could not have picked a better group of girls to represent the team and the school. I met with them the first week after I was hired and they really helped. We talked about everything from what they have done for offseason training to what they were thinking about the roster.”
The longtime Warriors have done their best to provide key information to the new coach.
“I think we helped communicate a lot to coach Hibino about past seasons,” said Holzman. “During tryouts, we knew the girls on the team and we could advocate for them. If they were having a bad day, we could reiterate that they are good players.
“Coach Hibino has done a great job. It’s been different, and coach Deschenes was great. But I feel like this puts the program in the best place possible.”
Now winners of four straight, with their only loss to powerhouse Lincoln-Sudbury, the Golden Warriors are hoping it is the start of a big season.
“We have always performed very well in the MVC,” said Garvin. “But we feel like we have a team that can do great things in states. It’s our senior year, so it is more important than ever for us this season.”
Hibino said his captains have already left a great mark.
“They have done such a great job making the other girls understand what it means to be part of the team,” said Hibino. “They have also raised money for different causes and done all of the little things. They should be proud of the legacy they leave behind.”
See their story
For a video interview with tennis captains Rachel Holzman and Annie Garvin, visit andovertownsman.com/sports