Three years ago, Britta Huibers was just a freshman trying to make what was a loaded Lake Norman tennis team.
The 2008 roster was headlined by No. 1 Kathryn Talbert, No. 2 Shruthi Rajan and No. 3 Haley Hammond, dominant players expected to lead a Wildcat team that was ranked in the state's top 10 all year.
Despite the experience on the roster, Huibers (pronounced HY-bers) got a chance to contribute.
"I remember we were really just looking for someone to play No. 2 doubles with Shruthi," said Lake Norman tennis coach Lezlie Carroll. "We saw Britta could hit the ball and was tough and would hustle, so we picked her. Ever since then, she has played in big matches and been ahead of the game."
Huibers remembers just being excited to just crack the lineup. She recalls that she was still very nervous on the court, even in practice.
"I remember when we first played Kathryn and Haley in doubles and Shruthi looked at me and said 'Just go as close as you can to the net and hold up your racket, you'll be OK,' " Huibers said. "I listened to what she said then, and I continued to listen to her. She was a great partner for me and taught me a lot about the game. She was so calm all the time, which really rubbed off on me."
After three seasons of experience, Huibers is not only one of the top players on her Lake Norman team, but also the only regular senior in the lineup at the No. 4 singles spot and No. 1 doubles alongside junior transfer Megan Mullen.
Huibers has been rock-solid this year, going 11-2 in singles and 8-2 in doubles to help lead the Wildcats to a 12-2 start, including 5-0 in the I-Meck with a big week remaining that will decide the conference title.
"One of things that make Britta such a good player is that she a very intelligent, self-assured young lady," Carroll said. "She knows what it takes to be a winner."
Lake Norman, which played Hough Monday after this story went to print, hopes that Oct. 5's match against archrival Mooresville will have I-Meck regular season title implications.
The Wildcats are seeking their third conference title in the last four years.
"It's the goal of everyone on this team, especially the senior class, to go out with a bang," said Huibers, whose team is 53-10 over four years at Lake Norman. "It is sad to think that this is my last chance as a senior. To win a conference title would be amazing."
Huibers' example is now what a lot of the younger players look up to as they try to make their mark.
Mullen (No. 1), junior Constance Crisp (No. 2), sophomores Bella Dokell (No. 3), Sydney Rapier (No. 5) and freshman Elizabeth Farley all have looked to Huibers for leadership.
Huibers also points to her six other classmates, seniors Taylor Beard, Daniella Dworschak, Tera Fogel, Kyle Harmon, Nikki Nelson and Taylor Purvis, as keys to the team's success, whether they are in the lineup or not.
"We all understand what it is like to be a winner," said Huibers. "What separates a win and a loss is often what is going on in your head. We have all learned to be calm under pressure and never give up on a point or a match. You never know what can happen if you hang there."
Four years ago, that same attitude is what got Huibers where she is today.