Ready or not, Gabriella Hesse became a leader of the Discovery Canyon girls' tennis team.

It had little to do with what the soft-spoken then-freshman said, but everything to do with her actions on the court when she became her school's first 4A state qualifier last season.

On top of that, she won her first-round match at No. 3 singles, but she knows it'll be a tougher road with the move up to No. 2 singles for her sophomore season.

Still, she knows what it takes.

"I know I'm not a team captain, but people are looking up to me after the year I had," Hesse said. "The new players coming in, if they see me working hard and succeeding, they'll be motivated to work hard, too. I have to find a way to push my teammates to the next level so we'll have more of us qualify for state this year."

Hesse won only three of seven regular-season matches last season, then got momentum late and reached the semifinals of the regional tournament.

For her second time around, Hesse is hoping for a more complete season.

"Tennis is so much a mental game, and I struggled with it at times last year," Hesse said. "When I'd get ahead, I'd let up, and that cost me a few matches. I've learned that I have to stay strong and power through, to keep attacking."