As good as advertised! How else to describe sophomore women's tennis standout Tori Nugent, a former Pennsville Memorial High School star who has taken the Roadrunners' program to new heights this season?
With an unblemished record of 7-0 at first singles and a 7-0 mark at first doubles along with teammate Lexi Pierce (Woodstown), Nugent has emerged as one of the nation's top individual performers.
And prior to this season even beginning, expectations were already high.
Tori played her freshman season at Division I Monmouth, but opted to continue her career at RCGC this Fall. At Pennsville, she helped her teams to four Group 1 sectional championships and a state crown, and earned All-South Jersey honors. She became the first tennis player in Pennsville history to win 100 career matches and capped off her career in grand fashion by grabbing a second straight Tri-County Conference Showcase singles title.
In Nugent's brief time at RCGC, the Roadrunners have compiled a 9-1 team record, which includes a No. 3 spot in the NJCAA Division III National Rankings. With the exception of a tough 5-4 loss to No. 4 Camden County College, which they avenged with a win over the Cougars in mid-season, the Runners have rolled through their Region XIX competition.
"When you have a player of Tori's caliber in your lineup, it elevates everyone else's game," said fourth-year coach Kelly Hernandez. "We knew going into the season that she is a very talented player, and she has shown that. Her teammates have followed her lead."
And Hernandez has been fortunate that her entire roster has stepped up to contribute to this exceptional season.
Aside from Nugent, the Runners feature several experienced players in the lineup, including sophomore No. 2 singles Lexi Pierce (Woodstown), who has also partnered with Nugent at first doubles for an undefeated season so far.
Two of Tori's high school teammates on Pennsville's championship teams, Haley Kircher and Rachel Ondricek, have also played key roles. Kircher has seen action at third singles while Ondricek, Nicole Andreacchio (Williamstown) and Maeve McFadden (Holy Spirit) have also performed in singles competition. Ondricek is unbeaten at fifth singles with a 6-0 record.
In doubles play, Nugent and Pierce are currently unbeaten at first doubles while Kircher and Andreacchio have teamed at No. 2, and Madison Cresci and McFadden have seen time at No. 3.
"We definitely deserve to be ranked nationally – we've beaten No. 6 Northampton and we've beaten No. 4 Camden County," said Hernandez. "The one thing that's nice about my team is that there are different people stepping up to contribute, not just one person all the time. We're not putting the pressure all on one person if we need to win a big match."
Nugent has enjoyed her time spent on the Roadrunners' roster as well.
"What's best about being here is that our team is really good and we all get along, which makes this season a lot more fun," said Tori. "The rankings (No. 3 in the country) have made us all realize that we're in it. We just need to continue working hard so we can pull out these tight matches."
Tori has defeated all of her Region XIX opponents handily in straight sets, and she will be the clear favorite in the upcoming individual tournament as she looks to advance to the National Championships.
The D-III National Championship Tournament will be played October 19-21 at the Peachtree City Tennis Center in Peachtree City, Georgia.
"It will be a matter of not beating myself," she said. "If I make it to nationals, the matches get a lot tougher, but I'm ready for it."