Senioritis strikes many college students on campus, some as
early as their freshman year of school. Symptoms range from party
fever to low test scores and class tardiness. But Michigan
women’s tennis seniors Michelle DeCosta and Leanne Rutherford
do not seem to be affected, as evidenced by their unparalleled
effort to steer Michigan to another successful campaign. Last
season the Wolverines posted a strong overall record of 17-7,
including an appearance in the second round of the NCAA
tournament.

For the past three seasons, DeCosta and Rutherford had looked up
to their senior counterparts, and are now prepared to take on their
own senior leadership role for the 2004-05 season.

“You watch the upperclassmen from the years before and you
see what works for the team,” Rutherford said. “There
are different ways of leading — there isn’t one set
way.”

Sophomore Elizabeth Exon said: “On the court they motivate
and encourage us.”

Though the girls are seniors, DeCosta doesn’t see herself
as an authority figure.

“I feel like I’m more of a friend than an authority
figure and that’s how I like to lead,” DeCosta said.
“We have a coach and an assistant coach and that’s all
of the authority we need.”

This kind of friendly leadership will help the young team, which
fields more underclassmen (five) than upperclassmen (four). DeCosta
is coming off a strong 2003-04 season, when she went 22-15 overall
in singles and 20-14 in doubles. Rutherford also had a solid
campaign, posting a 16-8 singles record and a 15-8 mark in
doubles.

Both girls do more than just play tennis. Rutherford loves to
play golf when she’s not between the lines and she also just
got her Scuba certification. DeCosta enjoys cooking, baking,
watching all kinds of sports and watching movies.

Despite their other activities, these women will always be
tennis players first — being senior leaders on the University
of Michigan tennis team is the first thing on their minds.

“It’s an honor … not too many people can say
that,” Rutherford said. “I feel fortunate and honored
that I can represent my team and represent Michigan.”

With the season fast approaching — it begins Jan. 15
against DePaul — the team will be hard at work in the Varsity
Tennis Center with DeCosta and Rutherford leading the way. Come
March, when the Wolverines open the Big Ten season against Michigan
State, the seniors hope the Spartans will have caught the
senioritis bug.

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