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June 6, 2014

H.S. GIRLS' TENNIS: Rossetto’s arrival helps propel Floyd back to state

Exchange student leaving the U.S. for home on Sunday

FLOYDS KNOBS — Floyd Central tennis really doesn’t need a lot of help.

Before the 2014 season, the Highlander girls had won 26 sectionals, including 13 in a row under Hall of Fame coach Rick Miller. They were regional champions 15 times, including each of the past five seasons, and they had made three state finals after last season’s state runner-up finish.

Last July 25, the already traditionally-rich Highlanders found themselves flush with bountiful Italian riches.

Floyd expected to win its 14th sectional in a row and was favored to win its sixth straight regional before Giorgia Rossetto boarded a jet in Torino, Italy — a city of about 2.2 million people located in the northwest panhandle — to begin her journey to Floyds Knobs.

The match of the great tennis program and the great tennis player was purely coincidental.

“My family chose for me,” Rossetto said. “They said you’re going to Floyd Central. I didn’t know anything about the tennis team. Lucky.”

Rossetto’s arrival gave the Highlanders a chance to repeat as semistate champions and that’s exactly what they did. Last Saturday, Rossetto beat Jasper’s top player, Maria Lueken, 6-1, 6-0 to help Floyd claim the Jasper Semistate 3-2.

“It has given us an advantage having her,” Floyd junior Erin Patterson said. “She’s really helped out a lot. She’s a great asset to the team.”

“Just one player boosts us all up one spot,” junior Alexis Applegate added. “She makes us even go harder, because we want to keep up with her because she’s so awesome.”

Rossetto’s arrival could have caused tension. Players like senior Dana Frank and Applegate had championship experience and had earned the right to compete for the No. 1 singles spot after former Highlander standout Olivia Boesing held it for four years.

However, the Highlanders saw Rossetto’s arrival as an opportunity for the program to reach the final rung of Indiana high school tennis once again.

“We’ve had some foreign exchange students on the team before, but not of her caliber,” Patterson said. “I remember the first time I watched her play. I thought, ‘She’s pretty good.’ Then I played her and I said, ‘Whoa! She’s really good.’ She’s been a joy to have her on the team. We all love her.”

“I was really excited,” Applegate recalled hearing about Rossetto from Patterson early in the school year. “Erin told me she was awesome and when I saw her, I was happy to have her on our team. She’s a big deal.”

No matter what happens over the weekend, Rossetto’s American odyssey will end Sunday, when she’ll make her way back to Torino. If she can manage to beat Carmel’s Bailey Padgett — last year’s state runner-up as a junior — but the Highlanders fall to the heavily-favored Greyhounds, Rossetto would be eligible to play for an individual state championship.

She says she requested to stay for another week but to no avail.

“I’m going to leave on Sunday,” she said. “I would have liked to play just for personal satisfaction. All the best girls are there. I’m sad on one side because I love this team so much. But on the other side, I’m excited to see my family after one year. And my friends.”

Rossetto said her first impression of the United States wasn’t at all what she expected it to be.

“It was different from what I imagined,” she said. “I’m not used to not having public transport and having to ask for rides to get everywhere. I live in the city and living here [in the Knobs] is just different, but I like it.”

It was clear the entire time to her teammates that Rossetto enjoyed her 10 months as an honorary Hoosier.

“She’s always having fun, always laughing, constantly has a smile on her face,” Patterson said. “She takes it seriously when she’s out on the court, but I’ve never seen her upset or down. It’s a nice positive attitude to have on the team.”

A lucky union paired Floyd Central and Rossetto, but the Italian said it wouldn’t have mattered if the team didn’t win a single match. Playing tennis with her teammates — and her friends for life — made the year a special experience.

“I felt like a part of the team as soon as I got here,” she said. “That’s what I like the most. I like winning, but I don’t really care if we win. We will be friends forever.”

“We’re going to miss her a lot,” Patterson said.

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