To some, she is known as “L. Train,” and to others,
She is junior Leanne Rutherford of the Michigan women’s
tennis team. And now Rutherford can be called “Big Ten
Conference Athlete of the Week.”
After a thrilling upset victory over Sara Jane Connelly of Notre
Dame (4-6, 6-2, 7-5), the Big Ten recognized Rutherford for the
week of Feb. 5. This is the second time in Rutherford’s
career that she has received this award, with the first coming last
Rutherford said that she was very excited after hearing she
received the honor, but surprisingly, she didn’t hear the
news until her roommate saw a story on mgoblue.com.
Rutherford is currently undefeated in singles in the dual-match
season (4-0) and looks for her milestone 50th career singles win at
Michigan. She currently holds a career mark of 49-26.
“I’ve been impressed with (Rutherford) since day
one,” coach Bitsy Ritt said. “She’s a great team
member — you know she’s gonna show up every day for
practice and matches.”
Junior Michelle DaCosta echoed Ritt’s admiration for
Rutherford’s competitiveness. As doubles partners, DaCosta
and Rutherford achieved early-season success against Louisiana
State and Georgia Tech at the Michigan Invitational.
“(Rutherford) is a great doubles partner,” DaCosta
said. “She hits the ball so strong and she is so
Ritt acknowledged that Rutherford is much improved since her
freshman year. Rutherford has transitioned from hitting a flat ball
to one with more topspin, giving the junior increased control, pace
and consistency on her shots. Ritt explained that this is a much
more effective shot for Rutherford.
“(Rutherford) has become a bigger player with bigger shots
and bigger weapons,” Ritt said. “It’s the little
things that have made such a big difference.”
One of Rutherford’s improved weapons is her ability to
finish more points at the net, according to Ritt, who has noticed
the junior working hard on her transition game.
DaCosta has seen much improvement in Rutherford’s game,
even from the fall season. Rutherford’s strengthened forehand
and increased competitiveness on the court have contributed to her
With such an explosive and competitive tennis game, it is a
wonder that Rutherford has been nicknamed “L. Woods”
after the character in the “Legally Blonde” movies.
DaCosta explained that Rutherford received her “L.
Woods” nickname on the basis of being “so cute”
and “adorable” on the court. Her opponents would
certainly be surprised by the nickname considering the way this
junior has left them biting the dust.
Rutherford looks to continue her singles and doubles success
Feb. 21, when she will lead No. 25 Michigan against Tennessee at
the final match of a six-game home stand.