As senior Marni Blumenthal winds up her arm on a serve during the Empire 8 Championships on Oct. 18, she thinks about the past four years on the women’s tennis team. She’s made thousands of arm windups, all signifying the end to her career.
Blumenthal, the lone senior on a young but talented women’s tennis team, has grown into a prominent leader and mentor in her final year.
On the court, Blumenthal went 9–0 in singles play and 8–1 in doubles play, a large contributor to the Bombers’ 11–0 season and their 11th straight Empire 8 Championship. Her off–the–court role, however, is much more striking.
Junior Haley Kusak, her teammate, said Blumenthal is the one who keeps the team focused on the court during matches.
“She really unifies us. If we kind of get off track, she’s the one saying we have to be serious,” Kusak said.
Blumenthal said she likes to lead by example and that her goal-driven mentality is what keeps practice going forward and drives everyone to get better.
When there’s problems on the team, head coach Bill Austin said Blumenthal is the one who listens and relays it to the coaching staff.
“She’s a good mouthpiece for the team,” Austin said. “She comes to me with issues and problems, we talk a lot of things out. She’s been a great role model for the team. She is not afraid to voice her opinion, and she’s not afraid to ask questions.”
Over the course of four years, Blumenthal has compiled 26 wins in singles play, ranking her 15th in program history. In doubles play, she registered a 31–16 record, good for a .660 winning percentage, which ranks fourth all-time on the best doubles records with at least 30 wins. In addition, she has recorded two double-digit win seasons in doubles from 2012–14.
Blumenthal, a Pennsylvania native, grew up playing soccer and lacrosse along with tennis all the way through high school. She said she always thought she would pursue lacrosse in college, but the environment of tennis drew her in.
Blumenthal said her mentality is that there’s a time to be loose and relaxed in practice, but matches are a time to be completely professional.
In her last year on the team, going undefeated and winning the Empire 8 Championships is something Blumenthal said has been exhilarating.
Blumenthal said she credits Austin for helping her through her early collegiate struggles, as well as alumna Laurel Salladay ’13.
Blumenthal said the winning culture the Bombers have is what motivates the team, but is also what she stresses to the team.
“I can’t imagine I’m too scary,” she said. “I’m 5 foot and look like a freshman, so I hope I’m someone they could look up to. On [the] court, I do become serious because I want to get better, and I want to win.”
This motivation is what she said has driven the Bombers to the success of the past decade.
“We want to win. We can’t lose. We don’t want to be the year to lose,” she said. “We love the feeling, we don’t want to give it up. We kept pushing each other to keep going.”
When she’s not in practice, Blumenthal is very active in the Ithaca community. She volunteers her time at Clare Bridge of Ithaca, a senior citizen community that treats dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients. Since her freshman year, Blumenthal has volunteered over 600 hours at the care center.
Blumenthal is also the president of AGES, the Aging and Gerontological Education Society, that serves the older population of the Tompkins County area.
Blumenthal said she loves working with the older population, whether with her time at Clare Bridge or organizing events for AGES, such as the Harvest Moon Dance, which treats the senior citizen population to a night of food and dancing.
As she prepares for life after graduation, she said she will not forget her time on the team that has enhanced her college experience.
She said the memories she made are unforgettable, and her teammates, like Kusak, said it will be a difficult transition after Blumenthal graduates.
“It’s going to be very sad, since she’s been here every step of the way,” Kusak said. “I’ll have to take on her leadership roles. It’s hard when people graduate.”
Blumenthal said she hopes to be remembered as a good player on and off the court, but mostly she wants to be remembered as a good person. She also said she hopes she has left a good mark on her teammates and her coaches.
Austin said Blumenthal is very self-motivated and will always push to get better in every aspect of her life.
“She’s got goals she wants to accomplish. A very studious student, she wants to get things done,” Austin said.