Montclair State University’s tennis club has made steps towards building a competitive group two years since its start. With little experience, the club has added new faces that can spread the knowledge of the sport and solidify their noise on campus.
President Nora Penner and Vice President Jordyn Kennedy have struggled to see their team compete since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic due to the lack of opponents and transportation issues. Now, because of the lack of competition, the team brought in players that have never played the sport, hoping their development would come in just before the start of the season.
“For myself and the other members of the e-board, this year has been a lot of figuring things out,” Penner said. “I think I learned a lot and each semester the team is becoming more and more of what I want it to be.”
In need of championship experience, the team added new head coach Peri Sanders. She studies at Montclair State and pursues a master’s degree in counseling for higher education students. Sanders has skills from her days at the University of Delaware (2013-2017) where she competed at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) On Campus National Championship in 2015.
Coaching isn’t new to Sanders as she has done private lessons for people in her community who look to improve their tennis skills. The background in tennis for Sanders has built respect from all members of her new team.
“My experience with the club tennis team has been an overwhelmingly positive one so far,” Sanders said. “All the players have been kind and welcoming towards me, and I am looking forward to working alongside [Penner] and [Kennedy] to expand upon and develop the team that they have already worked hard to build up.”
Sanders acknowledges that the sport requires individual effort, but she recognizes how supportive the group is towards one another.
“I hope to gain a better understanding of each individual player’s goal,” Sanders said. “From what I’ve seen so far, all the players on the team are very supportive of one another … I believe this team has the potential to put up a fight against other club tennis teams in the Eastern Conference.”
Having coaching experience is certainly a plus for the club, but adding an athlete who is naturally gifted at tennis is the icing on the cake for the Red Hawks.
Junior Romman Shoaib is another gem Penner has added to the group. Shoaib was born and raised in Pakistan where he enrolled in local tournaments that earned him a 24th rank for boys under 16 in the country.
When he moved to the United States, Shoaib stayed away from the game for seven years, but he never lost touch. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantine, Shoaib picked his racket back up and went to the nearest tennis court to play with fellow Montclair State peers.
“I was using tennis as a way to find peace outside of the whole pandemic going on,” Shoaib said.
After winning the Discovery Open Tournament last November, Shoaib was invited to represent the Eastern Region in the Nationals Tournament held in Arizona. The tournament was held earlier this month, and Shoaib pushed his way through to the quarter-final round. He offered his own advice to Red Hawks.
“Go through with it, especially if it’s going to have a positive impact on your life,” Shoaib said. “You wouldn’t know until you try, doesn’t matter if you lose, I feel like trying might get you somewhere somehow.”
The tennis club has yet to get a year under their belt together, but they’ve put the pieces necessary to complete each of their goals. Penner realized the club needed experienced talent in order to build the right team for the future. The team has players ready to learn under their helm and compete at the highest level.
“This group is determined, we are a new team and have had a lot of obstacles. I’m incredibly happy with the team we created,” Penner said. “We have new members who have never played before ready to compete and learn. We have experienced players who are excited to play in matches and help the new members out.”