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Article Published May 16, 2019
Weinstein Leads Valley to an Outstanding Campaign
Chris Negrini, Assistant Sports Editor

Jess Weinstein is a leader on a Valley Regional girls’ tennis team that’s netted a perfect record through its first 16 matches of the season. Jess plays the No. 4 singles position for the Warriors, and she’s also the team’s senior captain. Jess has made a huge contribution to Valley’s success as she, too, is sporting a record of 16-0. Jess wants the Warriors to continue their winning ways through the final stretch and into the playoffs.

Jess feels proud that Valley Regional is sitting atop the Shoreline Conference standings and on track for a high seed in the Class S State Tournament. Jess also feels honored that she was named a senior captain for the Warriors this season.

“The biggest thing I’m proud of is being nominated as the captain this year. We have a strong group of girls. As a team, we’re untouchable right now,” Jess says. “I take a lot of pride in my team, and we’re very close.”

Jess relishes the responsibility of being present for her teammates when they need her. Of course, there are the responsibilities of keeping the team organized, but Jess feels like it’s most important to support her squad emotionally in her captain’s role.

“On the outside, it’s mostly leading warmups and getting the girls to the courts and cheering everyone on. On the inside, I’ve been able to connect with all the girls on the team,” says Jess, who lives in Essex. “I feel I need to be there to support everyone on and off the court. I have to be strong for everyone. I feel like I’m the backboard for this team. If something goes wrong, I want to be there to fix it.”

Jess believes that much of her success in singles comes down to the mental part of the game. Jess always makes sure that she’s prepared and doesn’t bring any baggage into the match. Then, it’s just a matter of staying in the moment.

“Before a match, I make sure I know who I’m playing and look through the records. I try to mentally prepare myself and clear out anything that happened that day,” Jess says. “It’s easy to get in your head, because tennis is a mental sport. I clear my brain and play the game I know. I play the ball and get through the match point by point.”

Head Coach Sally Riggio sees Jess’s commitment to her team at each practice and every match. Riggio says that Jess is a methodical player and a caring teammate who encourages the Warriors in every way she can.

“Jess understands how to assess an opponent and adjust her game to exploit weaknesses. She is undefeated and will be a strong contender for the Shoreline title,” says Riggio. “Jess is a genuinely wonderful person, and that emanates on and off the court. All of the girls feel comfortable around her, which is how she was overwhelmingly voted to be captain by her peers. She’s a wonderful role model.”

Jess feels grateful for all the support that she’s received from her teammates, especially doubles player Franny Pisanzio, who had a heavy hand in getting Jess on the court in the first place. Jess also gets inspired by watching junior Myah Martinez battle top competition at the No. 1 singles position.

“Franny’s the person that got me into the sport. We’ve been friends since middle school, and she was the first person that believed in me that I should start playing. I had never played or picked up a racquet before,” Jess says. “I’ve watched Myah Martinez grow as a player at No. 1 singles. I really look up to her. When I finish a match, I want to watch her match. She plays a lot of crazy-good people. I get motivated by that.”

Jess has her sights set on helping the Warriors post an undefeated regular season, although she knows that they can’t get too ahead of themselves. As long as everyone stays focused from match to match, Jess thinks that Valley has an excellent chance to win every time out.

“Right now, most of our competition comes from North Branford and Old Lyme, and our last match is at Old Lyme. There’s going to be a lot of pressure,” says Jess. “We have to do a lot of mind prep and stay present. I’m confident we can be 20-0. I think it’s important for all the girls and Coach Riggio. As a team, we’re very strong, and this is a great opportunity for us to be 20-0.”