Women’s tennis started out the season with a bit of a different feeling this fall. Welcoming new freshmen and a new coach, the season promised to be full of new experiences and success.
The Women’s Tennis team welcomed new Head Coach Jack Sahlman as they began their season. Sahlman, previously the Graduate Assistant Coach for both Men and Women’s tennis at ENC, received the Head Coach position of the women’s team after long-time Coach Cris Popa transition to the Head Coach for the Cross-Country teams.
At the beginning of the season, Sahlman was looking forward to his new position, saying, “I am excited to see the girls play, but we still have plenty of things to work on. For me, being the Head Coach is an opportunity to put some coaching ideas to work.”
However, the coaching staff is not the only thing that has changed this year: the team has new players, two of whom are international players. In comparison to the Men’s Tennis team, which boasts a lineup full of international players, this is a first for the Women’s team.
Sharon Biondi, a 21-year-old from Venezuela, followed her brother and former men’s tennis player, Andres Biondi, to ENC. Biondi already traveled with the tennis team last spring to play in Hilton Head Island, but this is going to be her first conference season. While only playing during the spring, she will be returning as the number one seed on the ladder. Biondi explains the responsibility, “Being number one means a lot of pressure on my shoulders. However, I am very excited to play my first season, and I hope to win all my matches.”
Furthermore, Emily Ruttkowski* has helped strengthen the team’s lineup playing at the second seed in the lineup. At the age of 17, Ruttkowski is the youngest player on the team, but she notes, “In this team, I do not feel like I am the youngest. We are a team, in which everybody is equal. We have a very good harmony within the team.”
Making their way through the season, the women’s team had a few more new experiences. On Saturday, September 23, ENC Women’s tennis defeated Western New England in conference match play for the first time in program history. With the monumental win, the team also secured their place in the Commonwealth Coast Conference playoffs for the first time since 2004.** On Wednesday, the women’s team defeated Gordon in the Quarterfinals of the conference playoffs, making themselves the first ENC women’s tennis team to make it to the Semi-finals in program history. Their victory over Gordon was the first since 1996.
Before the season started, Coach Sahlman had hopes of pushing for the sixth seed in order to make conference playoffs, but the team has outperformed many expectations, heading into conference playoffs holding the fifth seed.
*Emily Ruttkowski is the sister of ENC men’s tennis player and the reporter of this article, Laurent Ruttkowski.
**CORRECTION: In the print edition release Friday October 13, the article states that ENC women’s tennis made it to the playoffs for the first time in ENC history. This has been revised, as the women’s team last made it to playoffs in 2004.