July 23, 2019 | 71° F

Sophomore starts year on high note

The experience sophomore Noor Judeh accumulated during her freshman year has eased her transition to this season.

Judeh saw time last year for the Rutgers tennis team and uses that familiarity as a reminder for what she needs to accomplish.

“[Coming in with experience] definitely made the process a million times easier because freshman year I had a really rocky start,” Judeh said. “I learned so much freshman year that made all the sense in the world this year because I knew what to expect, not just tennis-wise, but also mentally wise for what college tennis would be like.”

Head coach Ben Bucca also saw a different side of Judeh at the start of the year. He believes the experience of her freshman year gives her an idea of what she must do to succeed in college tennis.

“Noor is doing well this year and performing much better than she had last year,” Bucca said. “She really worked hard over the summer and came back in great shape. She’s playing like an inspired athlete.”

She displayed that tenacity two weekends ago in the Brown Invitational, the first tournament of the season, when she won three doubles matches with freshman partner Gina Li. “Because of her enhanced fitness, she’s getting to a lot more balls than she did her freshman year,” Bucca said. “She’s also playing with a very strong will to win. It’s great to see such improved play from Noor this year.”

But Judeh believes her best tennis is still ahead of her.

“I don’t really think that I’ve done my best just yet, but I know that I’m getting there because I’m already starting better than I did last year,” she said. “Even though I don’t feel like that last invitational was my 100-percent play, I still feel good because I know I’ll get there soon this year.”

The Knights next play in the USTA Invitational on Saturday in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., and Judeh is excited for the opportunity to continue to improve on the court.

“I would like to see myself focusing on being more aggressive in the points and fighting harder to win each point,” she said.

Judeh arrived at Rutgers from Potomac, Md., where she took an unconventional path to college tennis.

She did not play for her high school team, electing to instead practice with the 4 Star Tennis Academy. The academy provided more intense and rigorous practices than her high school could offer, which she felt benefited her tennis game more, she said.

But Judeh decided to give high school tennis a try during her senior year at Winston Churchill (Md.) High School. She quickly realized that her coaches at the academy were correct, and the pace of high school tennis did more harm than good.

She decided to leave the team to focus on tournament play with the academy.

“It was actually slowing me down a lot because it was a much slower pace in high school,” she said. “It was fun. I was enjoying it, but it was definitely slowing me down.”

Despite not playing for her high school team, Judeh was heavily recruited by several colleges. She did not even hear from Rutgers until late in the recruiting process, when assistant coach Hilary Ritchie reached out to her.

Judeh liked what Ritchie told her and was intrigued by the school, but she had already taken her five official college visits.

Still, Judeh and her mother took a visit to Rutgers on their own to check out the school and liked what they saw.

“The thing that drew me in most was the team and the coaches,” she said. “I noticed that the team had such a nice attitude and good team camaraderie. I liked it so much more than all the other teams that I visited, and I knew that the team was really important because I’d be spending so much time with them. I just got the best feel from my short visit here.”

By Mike Morton

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