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Belle of the tennis ball: Wessel shining as Fauquier’s undefeated No. 1 player

Thursday, Apr. 24 | By Jeff Malmgren

A fixture on the Fauquier High tennis team
since 2011, senior Isabelle Wessel is 8-0
this year at No. 1 singles and will play
at Christopher Newport University next
season. --Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Isabelle Wessel plays for one of the best high school girls tennis programs in the state.

Some of her goals, however, seem like they were stripped off the locker room wall of a winless team.

That’s because she genuinely cares about more than winning.

"I just want to see everyone on the team, including myself, improve," said Wessel, Fauquier High's No. 1 singles player.

That ambition pertains to even her tennis balls.

When serving, Wessel begins each game with three balls in her possession. Once she wins a point with one ball, she refuses to use it again until she wins with a different ball. It’s like she gives each ball the opportunity to improve at the same rate.

“I am very superstitious on the tennis court," she said.

Another Wessel goal: "I want us to be gracious winner and losers."

The Falcons haven't had many opportunities to act as gracious losers. Over the past five seasons, they've amassed an 83-6 record, including a 8-0 start to this season.

In fact, Fauquier has lost only one regular season match since the beginning of the 2010 season. Wessel, a senior, joined the varsity team in 2011 as a freshman.

"It's been really rewarding to be part of that team," she said. "I’d be lying if I said I didn't want to win."

Fauquier finished last season with a 17-1 record after going 19-2 in 2012, 20-2 in 2011 and 19-1 in 2010. That run included four Evergreen District championships, the first region championship in program history (2011 Region II title) and a pair of Group AA state berths (2012, 2011).

"I'm trying not to feel pressure … but I feel like we want to keep that going," Wessel said. "But we don't want to look at the big picture yet."

Wessel senses pressure on a couple fronts. In addition to the challenge of continuing Fauquier's team success, Wessel is now the Falcons' full-time No. 1 singles player after sharing that role in 2013. Plus, she's a senior, so this season is the last of her high school career.

"I have more pressure to make it special," Wessel said. "I just want to remember it. … Every year has been so special in its own way."

Wessel arrived at Fauquier after growing up in Boston and Cape Cod, Mass. She began playing tennis competitively around age 10 but attended her first tennis camp a few years earlier and won a Most Improved Player award.

“That was kind of rewarding: ‘Oh, I guess I can be good at this,’” she said.

Wessel became so good over the next 10 years that she earned a spot on the Christopher Newport University women’s tennis team, for which she’ll play next season.

“It was definitely a goal since I was young,” she said of playing in college. “I'm so grateful to be playing for an up-and-coming team.”

Wessel will likely focus her college studies on art. She spends a lot of her free time drawing.

“She’s super creative,” Wessel’s mother, Victoria, said. “She’s really talented.”

Wessel moved to Warrenton in 2009 after living for a few years in Knoxville, Tenn.

In fact, her Knoxville Racquet Club Dream Team won the 2009 USTA Junior Team 14-and-under intermediate national championship. As a eighth grade student at Warrenton Middle School, Wessel often traveled back to Knoxville to train during that championship run.

“That experience was really a big one,” Victoria Wessel said. “Her game really starting improving.”

The following year, Isabelle Wessel immediately stepped into Fauquier’s No. 2 singles spot as a freshman. She retained that role as a sophomore and then, as a junior, shared the No. 1 spot with Harper Van Ness, who missed part of the season with an illness.

“No. 1 and 2, I feel like the competition is pretty high in both,” Wessel said. “But sometimes I feel like there is more pressure [at No. 1]. Sometimes I did feel more relaxed at No. 2.”

Regardless, Wessel has thrived this season at No. 1. She has a 8-0 singles record and a 8-0 mark in doubles play with teammate Mackenzie Rollins. Wessel will try to win her fourth consecutive championship in the district No. 1 doubles tournament at the end of this season.

“She's very intelligent and she picks up easily what her opponents are trying to do,” Falcons coach Rob Deavers said of Wessel. “She can really see weakness and sort of exploit those.”

Wessel also plays exceptionally well at the net – better than most high school girls, Deavers said. She plays angles well, too, which keeps her opponents on their heels as she frequently tries to hit cross-court forehand winners.

Wessel’s worth extends well beyond the court, though.

“She's real big on motivating,” Deavers said. “Her matches are usually some of the first ones done and as soon as she gets off the court, she goes straight into coaching-mode. She'll go around and cheer people on.”

While Wessel now spends time encouraging her teammates, the game of tennis itself has encouraged her.

“It’s really helped with her self-esteem and her confidence,” Victoria Wessel said. “It’s not the most important thing in her life. It doesn’t [completely] define her, but it really is part of who she is.”

- - - - -

The Wessel File

Family: Father William works at Jacobs Engineering and in the military. Mother Victoria is an American Airlines flight attendant. Sister Alexandra, 23 is a Fordham University graduate living in Washington D.C. Brother Jack, 19, is a Fauquier High graduate and Virginia Military Institute freshman. Brother, Will, 11, attends Brumfield Elementary.

Favorite place: “Definitely the ocean. Where I grew up on Cape Cod (Mass.). I just love being there. It's very comforting and familiar."

Hobbies: “I love to just draw, or read, or find something to sit down and relax and do."

Favorite food: “I love food way too much to pick one. ... My mom's such an amazing cook. She’s a vegetarian, but she’s such a good cook, you can't even tell."

Favorite music: “I’ll listen to almost anything. Right now my cousin [Molly Rienold] is a singer, so I've just been listening to everything she writes. She has a Youtube channel and is making an album."

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