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Alex Hall's NH College Notebook: Portsmouth grad Winter is Little East rookie of the year

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 29. 2017 6:45PM


SAGE WINTER was shocked when she received the news from Plymouth State University women's tennis coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett.

Winter, a New Castle resident, did not expect to cap her freshman season with the Panthers by winning the Little East Conference Rookie of the Year award.

When Rawlsky-Willett told Winter she was this year's award recipient during a phone conversation this past Tuesday, the latter was pleasantly surprised.

"I knew a freshman had to win the award but I didn't think my record was as good as it could've been to win the award," Winter said. "I immediately called my whole family and friends and had a huge smile on the whole day."

Winter earned a 6-6 overall singles record this fall, playing 11 of her 12 matches at the No. 1 position. In addition to her rookie of the year honor, Winter was also named to the All-LEC Singles First Team.

Winter and her doubles partner, Irene Kigugu, a junior from Concord, earned a 3-6 overall mark playing at the No. 1 position.

The Panthers went 10-4 overall in the regular season and earned the No. 4 seed in the LEC tournament but fell in the first round to fifth-seeded Worcester State University.

Rawlsky-Willett said she believes Winter was the only freshman in the conference playing at No. 1 in singles competition.

"She has a powerful forehand, her first serve is good and her mental attitude on the court is excellent," Rawlsky-Willett said of Winter. "She's very non-expressive. If you didn't look at the score and looked at her, you wouldn't know whether she was winning or losing."

Winter earned her spot as the team's No. 1 singles player after recording the most points in the Panthers' preseason challenge matches. Throughout the preseason, each player faces every one of their teammates. Rawlsky-Willett tallies each player's points up at the conclusion of all the matches.

When this year's preseason challenge matches concluded, Winter "certainly had more points than anyone," Rawlsky-Willett said.

It did not take long for Winter to discover the difference in competition level between No. 1 singles play at the high school and college levels.

The Portsmouth High School graduate won her first match as a Panther, 6-0, 6-0, over Lyndon State's Savannah Jackson but fell 0-6, 0-6, her next time out against Division II St. Anselm College's Jess Perkins. Winter also lost her third collegiate singles match, 1-6, 0-6, against Rhode Island College's Dayna Reilly.

"It was a learning experience and it helped me," Winter said of her first two collegiate setbacks. "It taught me to be very humble and not take anything for granted."

Winter's favorite match was her three-set victory over Salem State's Madeline Allaire on Sept. 19. After Allaire lost the tiebreaker set, she came over and hugged Winter.

"She was such a nice opponent and it just really showed me you can still be really mature after having a really tough loss," Winter said.

As Winter begins preparing for her sophomore campaign, she plans to take a different approach to her offseason than last year. Winter did not play much tennis heading into her freshman year because she felt burned out. She plans to play consistently throughout this offseason.

"I'm definitely going to play all year round until next season," Winter said. "It was such a good way to end and made me love the sport even more."

Women's soccer

Bucknell University senior Kendall Ham was chosen as the Patriot League offensive player of the week this past week. The forward from Stratham scored both goals for the Bison in their 2-1 victory over Boston University Oct. 21. Ham's second goal of the contest marked the 37th of her career, giving her the third-most all-time in program history.

Suffolk University senior co-captain Alexandra Nagri registered her 100th and 101st career points in the Rams' 10-0 triumph over Massachusetts Maritime this past Monday. The forward from Salem recorded four goals and an assist in the triumph.

Field hockey

St. Michael's College senior Jenna Deschaine was named to the Northeast-10 Conference weekly honor roll this past week. The starting defender from Claremont logged three goals and an assist over a 1-2 week for the Purple Knights.

Women's cross country

University of New Hampshire junior Shannon Murdock was named one of the America East performers of the week this past week. The runner from Exeter won the three-kilometer event at the Central Connecticut Mini-Meet Oct. 20 with a time of 10 minutes, 8.6 seconds.

Franklin Pierce University sophomore Rebecca Zylak recorded the program's second-fastest time ever in a six-kilometer race and classmate Julia Cormier set a personal record at the NE-10 championships Oct. 22.

Zylak, of Goffstown, was the first Raven to cross the finish line, taking 41st overall with a time of 23:31.77. Cormier, of Northwood, finished 45th overall with a personal-best time of 23:42.22.

Men's golf

Bentley University freshman Tommy Ethier was named to the NE-10 weekly honor roll this past week. The Nashua resident led the Falcons this fall with a 72.8 average.

Women's hockey

St. Michael's senior Kaitlyn Wurzer was named to the NE-10 weekly honor roll this past week. The forward from Lee recorded a goal and an assist and won 56 percent (28-for-50) of her faceoffs in the Purple Knights two victories over Post University Oct. 20-21.

Franklin Pierce freshman Haley Parker tallied her first career point in the Ravens' 6-1 loss at Holy Cross this past Wednesday. The forward from Londonderry picked up the primary assist on Meg Gilbride's goal that came 14:52 into the second period.

Alex Hall compiles the college notebook for the New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at or on Twitter @AlexKHall.

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