Rutgers bids farewell to two seniors on heels of historic season
Leading the Rutgers tennis team, head coach Hilary Ritchie, in her inaugural season, led the team to two Big Ten wins over Penn State and Wisconsin and effectively changed the culture of the team in just one short season. Expectations for the season were limited for the young team with a rookie head coach, but it’s clear that the future is bright for the Scarlet Knights.
The team prepares to say goodbye to two senior leaders on the team in Farris Cunningham and Ksenija Tihomirova. Rising juniors Mingxiu Du, Chloe Lee and Lee Levy will now assume the leadership roles on what will be an incredibly young team. Cunningham and Tihomirova will be greatly missed, especially due to their production. The two combined for eight Big Ten singles wins. Cunningham led the team with ten total wins on the season. She tagged with freshman Jacqueline Cochrane in the doubles and scored eleven wins for the Knights. The experience and leadership will translate to their teammates and hopefully next year.
As students and coaches refine their skills and tactics, they prepare to make next season better than this year. Ritchie is the coach that these girls wanted and needed to succeed. They trust Ritchie to continue to elevate this program and its players to the next level.
“I was super excited when she became the head coach. She took this program to another level not only getting the first Big Ten wins but simply the way she trains and makes us work out. She's the reason why I was able to improve,” Cunningham said.
The future is bright for the team. The new recruits coming in have already come to support the team and made their presence known. They will play an integral part in the success of Rutgers next year just as this year's freshman did.
This year's freshman Jacqueline Cochrane, Katherine Muzik and Kyra Yap were extremely important for this team. Cochrane along with Cunningham won nine doubles sets. Muzik along with Du was able to get six doubles wins. Muzik also ranked second on the team with seven singles wins. Muzik and Cochrane tied on the team for third for Big Ten singles wins with one each. If that kind of production can be found in next year's recruits, the Scarlet Knights will take a huge leap forward.
“The team will be playing more tournaments in the fall. They're going to be working out even more and the recruits coming in have a lot of potential,” Cunningham said.
While this season did not result in a Big Ten Championship berth for the Knights, they were not far off from that goal. If the Knights picked up just one more win this season, they would have been playing this week in the Big Ten Championships. One extra Big Ten win next season is not impossible especially for a team that is consistently improving.
“We wanna be the best academically and athletically. This team has goals and the potential to reach and exceed every one of them,” Cunningham said.
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