By Ellen Oliver
The Nashoba girls’ tennis team is expanding – growing from eight players to twelve, from three courts to five. Another area where they want to expand: in the record books by forging deeper into the playoffs.
The season started with the Chieftains channeling energy from their new courts into wins. The girls started off the year with a 5-0 win home over Algonquin, followed by a 4-1 victory at Wachusett. Then the team ran into some trouble, losing to Shrewsbury 4-1 and Westborough 4-1.
Coach Steve Winer said he and the team are keeping those two losses in perspective. “Westborough was all right. The last three times, 15 of 15 times we lost. This time we won one. Our goal was to win one,” he explained. The team rebounded with a 4-1 win over Groton-Dunstable, followed by a 5-0 blanking of Quabbin on Monday. Like the boys, the girls’ team moved to the tougher Mid-Wach A and will face new teams and players. Fortunately, Winer is already familiar with many of the girls through his work as a tennis pro and his daughter Jillian’s presence at USTA tournaments.
Jillian Winer isn’t just showing her skills at tournaments, this year she’s on the courts representing Nashoba at first singles. The freshman has a 3-2 record so far (while playing with a broken wrist) and is ranked in the top 50 for 16 year old girls in New England.
Playing second singles is senior Rachel Zelle, who the coach credited with improving her game by playing all year. “She’s doing really well; she’s much better and is so hard working. I’m extremely proud of her,” he said.
Lefty sophomore Erika Rohrberg holds down the third singles spot. The coach explained that Rohrberg has had some tough matches where she’s had to dig herself out of a hole. “Against Groton-Dunstable, she was down 4-1 in the first set and came back to win in straight sets,” said the coach. “She’s won two or three clinching matches for us.” Rohrberg was the only victory against reigning Central Mass champion Westborough.
First doubles is led by seniors Emily Suglia and Kelsie Zeliff, who also captain the team. The
captains have been solid for Nashoba and have won three of their four matches. “They’re doing great, doing fabulous,” said Winer.
Second doubles is junior Victoria Wang and sophomore Sophia Duros, a solid team paired together for the second year. Although Wang missed two matches with a concussion, Winer is confident that the duo will pay dividends for the Chieftains. “They’re our secret weapon,” he said.
With Wang out, freshman Emily Floyd filled in with Duros. “Emily did well. They didn’t win, but are getting closer,” said Winer. He’s hopeful the two will get a win before Wang returns.
Also providing some doubles depth is the pair of Emma Picaro and Kyra Fasano, both freshman. Picaro and Fasano filled in at second doubles when Wang and Duros moved to first doubles while Suglia and Zeliff were off one day. “They got to play second doubles. It was good for them to get a match under their belts,” he said.
Rounding out the team of 12 are freshmen Cayla Murphy and Larissa Plishevsky and the coach is happy to get as many players as he can. “Last year we had eight. If we had eight this year we would have had to forfeit against Shrewsbury,” he said. “We’re starting a process to get more players next year.”
Winer is trying to create more awareness of the tennis program at the high school by developing feeder programs in the lower grades. Winer explained that there will be a USTA sanctioned tournament at Nashoba this summer and, thanks to a USTA grant, the high school courts were lined with blue boundaries so players 10 and under can play regulation tennis.
To make the post-season, Winer said the team has to be first or second in Division I or over .500. “We’re five wins away from our goal, which is making the post season,” said Winer. The Chieftains have five in the books and 11 more to go. “If we win half our matches, we’ll be happy,” he added.
Meanwhile, Winer and his team are having fun and working hard, keeping an eye on the record book and their opponents. “We have some matches where we should do well. All the girls are starting to feel a part of something,” he said. “I’m so proud of all of them.”
For more photos of the tennis team and other Nashoba athletes, visit: http://daisydesignphotos.