WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange High School varsity girls’ tennis team is looking to serve up a winning 2018 season.
The team’s record in 2017 was a respectable 11-8. The Mountaineers defeated Verona for the first time in 10 years and defeated Glen Ridge for the first time in close to 15. The girls were Essex County Tournament consolation champions and advanced to the second round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state tournament for the second consecutive season.
Eight seniors graduated from last year’s team, which is now comprised of seven seniors, six juniors, five sophomores, and two freshmen.
“We are now playing in the Super Essex Conference-American Division, arguably the toughest division in the state of New Jersey,” said head coach Jeff Mazurek. “Our division includes the top two-ranked teams in the state, No. 1 Millburn and No. 2 Newark Academy.”
Sophomore Nneka Arinzeh is a player to watch, going 18-4 last season while finishing runner-up in the Essex County singles tournament.
“Nneka was the first player I have coached to qualify for the state tournament,” Mazurek noted. “We are looking for Nneka to be a leader and make a name for herself as not only one of the best in the county, but also one of the best in the state.”
Another player to watch is sophomore Sophia Ruggiero, who had an outstanding freshman season. She earned 12 wins and helped lead the Mountaineers in their biggest wins over Verona and Glen Ridge. Both girls attended a leadership conference at Columbia High School in August.
“We talked a lot about how we need to learn from our coaches and teachers,” said Arinzeh, “and to learn to lead on and off the court.”
“We’re only athletes for a short period of time,” echoed Ruggiero, “and we need to focus on character and sportsmanship.”
Both girls plan to play tennis at the collegiate level.
“The team has worked extremely hard throughout the summer on both their fitness and tennis skills,” Mazurek said, “and we are extremely confident in our singles players’ ability to compete. We have really focused on developing our doubles teams to ensure a successful 2018 season as well.”
The girls took a hit with an opening game loss to Newark Academy and will play Glen Ridge in a home match Sept. 17 beginning at 4 p.m.
1st singles – Nneka Arinzeh (Sophomore)
2nd singles – Sophia Ruggiero (Sophomore)
3rd singles – Darlene Folas (Junior)
1st doubles – Kaia Baker (Junior) and Madison Oliver (Sophomore)
2nd doubles – Funmi Oshodi (Senior) and Alynna Sanchez/Herva Kana (Senior/Junior)