Sean Masoncup said he knew Eve Tubman wasn’t returning next spring as an assistant for the St. Charles North boys tennis team, but he had no idea a few months ago he’d be taking over for her as the North Stars’ girls tennis coach this fall.
This unexpected coaching change so close to the start of the season could have been detrimental to the North Stars’ performance the past two months, but North has embraced this transition, become a closer group because of it and is peaking at just the right time with the St. Charles East sectional starting today.
“This is really her squad,” Masoncup said of Tubman, the girls varsity coach for the past six seasons. “She was planning on finishing with the girls (this season) and then move to Atlanta, but her house sold in two days and it didn’t make sense for her to stay.
“(Tubman is) real proud of them and wishes she could have finished off the season,” added Masoncup, who has texted with the former coach after nearly every weekend meet this season and spoke with her after last weekend’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division Tournament.
Senior Morgan Rerko said she and her teammates assumed Tubman would be back this fall, but when a few of the girls received calls and texts from her this summer confirming she was leaving, the group had no choice but to look forward.
“I think that brought us together,” Rerko said of the coaching change. “Masoncup came in and brought the team together.”
Senior Emma Spellman, who teams with Rerko at No. 1 doubles for North, had a good idea of the style Masoncup would bring to the team after watching him coach her brother, Grant, now a sophomore playing club tennis at Stanford, for four seasons.
“I knew (Masoncup) was a great coach and very motivational,” said Spellman, who recently was named a National Merit Semifinalist. “He’s really been very supportive of us.”
This unexpected pairing of coach and team has generated plenty of positive results on the court, as the North Stars are coming off arguably their best performance of the season, sweeping the four doubles title matches at the UEC River Tournament and winning the event by a 35-32 margin over Geneva.
While St. Charles North couldn’t overcome the four-point edge the Vikings held heading into the event by virtue of conference dual meet records, a second-place overall conference finish – one point shy of Geneva’s winning total of 66 – was clearly a step in the right direction for a program that took fourth in each of the last two seasons.
“I think we played great during the tournament,” Masoncup said, “and I’m real optimistic that we can qualify some doubles teams to state.”
That’s the goal for Rerko and fellow senior Brittany Rohrsen, who will be partnered at sectionals after Rerko and Spellman won first doubles at the conference meet. Rohrsen and Breanne Warner, a junior, broke serve to close out their straight sets title match victory at No. 2 doubles.
The Rerko-Rohrsen pairing split its four matches at last season’s state meet after helping the North Stars finish third at the St. Charles East sectional with 18 points.
“Last year, we weren’t sure how state would go or if we’d even qualify,” Rerko said. “Now I have the confidence we can do well at sectionals. I think with the state experience and the motivation, we can get there again.”
Spellman is also hoping for a second consecutive state meet berth after she and then-senior Lianne Anderson advanced to the consolation third round last season. This year, Spellman will line up with standout freshman Shelby Thomas, who Masoncup called the North Stars’ top singles player.
“It’s a little difficult playing with Morgan for the majority of the season then with Shelby on the weekend,” Spellman said. “(Shelby is) a singles player and excels at singles and I’m a doubles player, but she’s very good at the baseline and that works well with me at the net.”
It’s worked so well with Masoncup this season, that no matter what happens this weekend or at the state meet, the returning North Stars know what to expect in 2016 – aside from raised expectations.
“I will be coming back for sure next season,” Masoncup said.