In doubles, you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don”t click with your partner, it”s a disaster in the making. Fortunately for the Michigan women”s tennis team, the freshmen doubles duo of Leanne Rutherford and Michelle DaCosta found instant chemistry the moment they stepped onto a court together.
“It”s hard to explain,” Rutherford said. “We just have a really good sense of where one another is on the court, and we have lots of fun.”
“From the very first match, we just clicked together,” DaCosta said.
What makes this chemistry more intriguing is the difference in the outward personalities of DaCosta and Rutherford. At first glance, they seem as different as their hometowns Rutherford is from Calgary, Alberta and DaCosta is from Huber Heights, Ohio.
Rutherford is the easygoing, always smiling jokester. She seems to be able to make everybody laugh, whether it be with an impression of the airheads in the movie “Romy and Michele”s High School Reunion,” or by just making funny statements.
“She”ll just say something, and everyone can relate to it,” DaCosta said.
On the other hand, DaCosta is more soft-spoken and serious. But DaCosta says that she and Rutherford are more similar than it appears.
“Leanne talks more, but we have the same kind of personality,” DaCosta said. “There are people on the team that are louder than both of us.”
“I like to laugh,” Rutherford said. “But we”re all happy and we always have a good time.”
Personalities aside, the two get along on and off the court. This was made blatantly obvious to Western Michigan and DePaul last weekend as Rutherford and DaCosta went undefeated in doubles play even though they played in the No. 1 spot.
“Coming in they were both pretty strong, and they”ve gotten much better since coming here,” No. 1 singles player Kavitha Tipirneni said. “They”ve done a wonderful job.”
In addition, both DaCosta and Rutherford went 2-0 in singles play over the weekend, as they took turns filling in for injured No. 2 singles player Chrissie Nolan (hamstring).
It doesn”t matter to Rutherford where she plays, though.
“I didn”t expect to play that high, and like Coach (Bitsy) Ritt says, a singles point is the same wherever you play,” Rutherford said.
Freshmen getting significant playing time is nothing new for the Wolverines. Last year, then-freshmen Tipirneni and Nolan played No. 1 and No. 2 singles for Michigan. Having gone through the experience, Tipirneni can relate to DaCosta and Rutherford.
“The experience last year was good, but it was rough at times,” Tipirneni said. “But it will help us this year.”
The road may be smoother for this year”s freshmen if they continue to show the one personality trait that will shine above the rest: A penchant for winning.