By Michael James LeClair
The Nashoba Regional girls’ tennis team has established itself as one of the premier programs in Central Massachusetts.
Entering Monday’s home match with visiting Westborough, the Chieftains had a sparkling 9-1 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the Mid-Wach A. Combine that with an 18-2 overall record and a Central Mass Finals appearance in 2015 and the Chieftains success has been apparent.
Nashoba head coach Steve Winer is in his fifth season at the helm and he knows that he has a special group of players on this year’s roster.
“We have a winning tradition here at Nashoba and it’s not just in tennis, it’s in every sport. We’re a varsity-only team so we can’t keep everyone that comes out for the team so the level of competition is pretty high with these girls,” said Winer. “We have a pretty strong squad and one of the things that I really like is we have a lot of talent and depth on our roster.”
On Monday, the Chieftains had their hands full against the upset minded Rangers but in the end the hosts pulled out a 3-2 victory to improve to 10-1 and 8-1 in the league.
“It was quite a tough match but we eked it out with a 3-2 win,” said Winer. “It came down to a third set in our number two singles match and Ariane (Sanjar) won 6-2 in the third.
Along with Sanjar, a sophomore who is the team’s number two singles player, the squad is led by senior co-captains Jillian Winer and Emma Picaro.
Winer, Sanjar and Picaro are the Chieftains top three singles players respectively.
“We’ve always had a strong team since I’ve been here and I feel that this year’s team may be the strongest yet,” said Jillian Winer, who is a four-year member of the Nashoba girls’ tennis squad. “All three of our singles players have been playing really well in addition to our doubles teams that are doing the same. This team really has come together as a group and its showing.”
Jillian Winer plans to attend Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in the fall. During the interview she did not commit to a college major but did say she plans to continue her tennis career at the collegiate level.
“I think this has been the year where all the puzzle pieces have fallen in place. We’ve really come together,” said Picaro, who plans to attend the University of Alabama in the fall to double major in International Finance and Spanish on the Pre-Law. “I feel like this is our year. It’s an incredible group and we’ve worked really hard.”
According to the Nashoba head coach, Sanjar is a transfer student from New Jersey and has fit in quite nicely as the team’s number two singles player.
“Ari is a very good player, she is a solid number two singles player for us,” said Steve Winer. “She would be a number one on almost any other team.”
On the doubles side of things the Chieftains put together two solid pairs in senior Cayla Murphy and junior Keagan Castles along with the duo of senior Kyra Fasano and junior Meredith Curran.
“This is one of the most close-knit groups I’ve had here. There is a lot of camaraderie between the girls,” said Steve Winer. “They work hard and they are a great group to be around.”
This past weekend, at St. John’s in Shrewsbury, the Central Mass. Individual Tennis Tournament began. With players from 23 different schools throughout Central Mass hitting the court, Nashoba’s top two singles players, Winer and Sanjar, along with the team’s top doubles duo of Murphy and Castles all advanced to the next round beginning at 9am on Saturday morning back at St. John’s.
With 14 total players on the 2016 roster Winer has working diligently to try to balance the playing time and give as many an opportunity to see game action.
Working hard to earn their opportunities are senior Emily Floyd, junior Blanca Sturm, sophomores Keely Stevenson, Lauren von Stetten and Haley Neff. Freshmen Emily Boucher and Bella MacNeil are also putting in work and looking to gain some valuable playing experience.
“That’s my goal is to work everybody into a match,” said Steve Winer. “It’s difficult because we have seven designated starters, but later this week I am going to try to get everyone in.”
Following Monday’s victory, the Chieftains have four-and-a- half matches left on the regular season slate before finding out its postseason fate when the team pairings are announced on May 31.
“We have four-and-a-half matches left because we started our match with Shrewsbury and is was interrupted by rain,” said Steve Winer. “We were up 2-0 against Shrewsbury when we were hit with a rain delay so that will be made up and finished when Shrewsbury comes here for the last match of the year.”
According to Steve Winer, the team portion of the tournament should open with matches on June 2.