Sascha Pauly, a foreign exchange student from Belgium, is the No. 1 player on the Hannibal girls tennis team to begin the 2018 season.

Sascha Pauly rose straight to the top.

As the Hannibal girls tennis team facilitated internal competition to determine its varsity lineup to begin the season, a new face was the last one standing.

Pauly, a foreign exchange student from Belgium living in America's Hometown this school year, put her talent on full display and earned the title of the Lady Pirates' No. 1 player entering the fall. 

“That was definitely a fun surprise,” Hannibal head coach Bob Catalpa said.

Pauly's emergence provides depth to the Lady Pirates, who have only two returning starters from last season.

Pauly won her first high school match during an 8-1 team win against North Central Missouri Conference rival Fulton on Wednesday as Hannibal claimed its first victory of the 2018 campaign.

Pauly was victorious in the top singles matchup, 10-1.

“We just moved everybody else down one in the lineup, so this makes us stronger,” Catalpa said of adding Pauly to the mix. “Sascha is real solid. She's got a tough top-spin forehand and a decent serve. She's a good athlete.”

Following Pauly in the Hannibal lineup are juniors Blair Burton (No. 2) and Elizabeth Stilley (No. 3), who both played at the varsity level last season.

Burton and Stilley earned 10-4 wins on Wednesday, while Elizabeth Brummell (10-6, No. 4), Jaspreet Kandola (11-9, No. 5) and Kaylee Dissel (10-6, No. 6) all won to help the Lady Pirates sweep singles.

Dissel is a senior transfer from Olathe, Kansas, with previous playing experience.

Burton and Stilley teamed up for a 10-3 win against Fulton in No. 2 doubles, while Kandola and Dissel won 10-6 at No. 3.

Shelby Pritchett provides further depth for the Lady Pirates as a junior, with four sophomores and a freshman behind her who will play a significant role during the expanded conference matches. 

Hannibal is scheduled to play at Palmyra on Thursday.