WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange High School girls tennis team is looking to serve up a winning 2018 season.
The team’s record in 2017 was a respectable 11-8 in their North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 division. The Mountaineers defeated Verona for the first time in 10 years and defeated Glen Ridge for the first time in nearly 15 years.
The girls were also the Essex County Tournament Consolation Champions and advanced to the second round of the NJSIAA North 1, Group 4 state sectional tournament for the second consecutive season.
After losing eight players to graduation in 2017, the team is now comprised of seven seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen.
The Mountaineers are now playing in the American division of the Super Essex Conference, which head coach Jeff Mazurek said is “arguably the toughest division in the state” with No. 1 Millburn and No. 2 Newark Academy among their opponents.
For West Orange, sophomore Nneka Arinzeh, who finished 18-4 last season and was a runner-up in the Essex County Singles Tournament, is a player to watch this season.
“Nneka was the first player I have coached to qualify for the state tournament,” said Mazurek. “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, and to learn to lead on and off the court,” said Arinzeh.
"We're only athletes for a short period of time and we need to focus on character and sportsmanship,” said Ruggiero.
Both girls intend to play tennis at the college level after graduating from West Orange.
“The team has worked extremely hard throughout the summer on both their fitness and tennis skills and we are extremely confident in our singles players’ ability to compete,” said Mazurek. “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-match loss to Newark Academy, but hope to come back in a home match against Glen Ridge on Sept. 17 at 4 p.m.
The West Orange High School girls varsity roster for 2018 is as follows:
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)
The West Orange girls tennis schedule can be found here.