Hannah Knust isn’t very vocal, but she doesn’t need to be.
It’s her tennis game that speaks volumes.
Knust, who just finished her freshman season at Marian University, has already started to rewrite the record books.
The former Plainfield High School star has set Marian records for total wins in a season (43) and doubles team wins (23) with senior Alyson O’Conner.
“I knew that she (Knust) would make an immediate impact in our singles line-up, but the surprise came when she began playing doubles for us,” Marian coach Cassie Mackell said.
Notably, two of her teammates set the singles season record for wins with 21 (she had 20 wins playing singles); otherwise she would have set another record.
“The records aren’t as important as what my teammates think of me and how I represent and play for them,” the ever-humble Knust said.
Knust (20-5 in No. 2 and No. 3 singles, 23-3 in No. 3 doubles), who was chosen as all Mid-Central College Conference, helped her team achieve a new school record for team wins (21), including a runner-up finish in both the regular season and the conference tournament.
The Knights finished with a record of 21-6 and a ranking of 25th in the final National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll.
Knust said she knew they would achieve success by working as a team.
“I wasn’t too surprised, well, maybe at first, but later in the season the team was all on the same page,” she said. “We were working toward the same goals, and worked really hard.”
From the time she recruited her, Mackell said she was impressed with Knust.
“When I saw Hannah play for the first time, I knew I had to have her (on my team),” she said. “When you saw her play, you could tell she had an internal competiveness, fought for herself, was very humble about her play, and had very good sportsmanship. I thought she could be near the top of the line up and I’m glad that she proved it was true.”
Mackell said she had high expectations this season for Knust, but even those were exceeded.
“She really started to become a good doubles player,” Mackell said. “That has been the surprise of the year and where she can go from here until her senior year.”
And because of Knust’s success, her teammates voted her as the squad’s most valuable player.
“She truly is a valuable player on our team,” Mackell said. “She exceeded expectations, certainly, especially playing doubles, but MVP of the team, that was very unexpected.”
Knust humbly credited her doubles partner, O’Conner, for their success.
“She taught me a lot about doubles and definitely helped us win a lot of our matches,” Knust said. “She definitely influenced me and shared her experiences with me. I looked up to Aly as the leader of our team, and I am sad to see her go.”
Knust also credited her coach as a key to her success.
“Cassie is great, she’s like my mom away from home,” she said. “I could go to her about anything and that really helps. She’s always very encouraging and very peppy. I knew she would be there for me on or off the court.”
Mackell said she knew last fall that she had a special group in her first-year players.
“Coming into this season with the freshmen (Knust, Sarah Potter, and Katie Barrett), I knew that we had a chance to make a few more waves than in past years,” she said. “The thing that I love first and foremost is you can tell they’re there for their teammates, they’re all for the team. Whether they won or lost their match, when they get off the court, they’re cheering on their teammates and that, you can’t coach.
“The freshman class has made a tremendous impact. When they came in the fall, they were ready to play. They’re all hard workers, practice with a purpose, and to have that mindset (as a freshman) is impressive.”
The Knights were successful this season because they played for each other.
“They are friends on and off the court and they have the same mindset of ‘we want this,’ and I think that has tremendously helped our team to get where we did and finish where we did,” Mackell said. “I think the girls jelled more this year and you could tell that there was a team effort all the way throughout the entire season. I always say that this is your family away from your family.”
The Knights’ tennis program has steadily improved over the last few years and continued because of players like Knust and her teammates.
“Their motivation keeps them fired up,” Mackell said. “As a coach, you can only do so much to prepare them, but when they get on the court, it’s all up to them. Their determination level this year and their willingness to fight (for each other) has grown over the past few years and they have taken our program to a new level.”
Now, Mackell says she’s just looking forward to the future.
“We only lose Aly (O’Conner) next year,” she said. “Other than that, everyone is back. It has helped that the young line-up has got that experience and is close to getting over that hump to go to nationals as a team. It’s exciting to see what could happen their junior and senior years.”
She said she’s counting on Knust to contribute much.
“I know Hannah knows what she wants to do,” Mackell said. “I want to see her rise even further, to the level to compete for a national championship. I have hopes for all of my girls, but with her natural talent and skill, I think the sky’s the limit for her.
“She truly helps complete our team. She works just as hard in the classroom as she does on the tennis court. She is truly a tremendous student-athlete for Marian and were lucky to have her on both the tennis court and in the classroom.”