LANSING | They both have a taste of making it to the state tournament.
Both have the experience and remember the success of last year's team.
Both Amirah Ali and Paula Rodriguez are expected to lead a young squad.
Ali made it to state with graduated Andriana Johnson as a doubles team. Rodriguez was part of the T.F. South badminton team which won the state title in May.
Last year's Rebels team opened up some eyes not only in the tennis community, but in the school as they won what is believed to be a program record 14 matches. That was a boost for a program that is not a tennis power.
"Definitely it was," Ali said. "I think it showed this year because we have a few more kids out and maybe they realized if they worked hard like we do, they can have success."
Ali, the team captain, knows last year's performance is no indication of success this year, but it has raised the bar.
"We want to get better and get a few girls to state," Ali said. "We know we have to continue to work as a team and my role is to make sure everyone helps each other. If someone is having a problem with their game, you work with them."
Last year, Bryttish Burts moved in and qualified for state and won three matches at the state tourney. The junior returns, but just came out this week. Ali went to the state meet with doubles partner Andriana Johnson, who graduated. Rodriguez just missed making it.
"We feel that last year was a breakthrough year, but we want to do better this year," Rodriguez said. "We got people to take notice of T.F. South and I think that is more incentive to work harder this year."
Rodriquez knows what her goal is and she said she and her teammates put in a lot of hard work over the summer.
"I want to get to state, but i want to go with some more of my teammates," Rodriguez said. "We have some tough competition along the way."
Last year's team lost only to South Suburban Blue Conference champ Lemont and to Marian Catholic. Conference is also one of the goals.
"We want to work towards that, but we also want to improve each match,"Ali said. "We know what we are capable of doing and we all work together as a team."
Scott said the team's goals include winning the SSC and getting at least one singles and one doubles team to the state meet. He said the senior duo are the key not only because of their talents, but their leadership.
"We expect Paula and Amirah to help the younger kids," Scott said. "They were a big part of our turnaround last year, so they know how far we have come."