Expectations exceeded in most succesful season on Banks
When the Rutgers tennis team began its spring season, it laid out a number of goals it had hoped to accomplish by season's end.
Among those aspirations were to win at least 75 percent of the doubles points and to finish the regular season with a minimum of 14 wins. Going into the Big East tournament, the Scarlet Knights set out to win at least two games.
After three road trips, 18 games and one tournament, every single one of the team's goals had been accomplished.
Head coach Ben Bucca gives all of the credit to his team.
"I think we have a core group of girls on the team that are strong competitors," Bucca said. "They love to play and know how to compete. I'm confident that this team is not going to take the attitude to rest on their accomplishments."
An undefeated first doubles team, a freshman duo that went 14-1 and a first-time fourth place finish in the Big East tournament is enough to hang your hat on.
The team is still not satisfied and sophomore Amy Zhang believes it can climb up the rankings in the future.
"The next step for us is becoming a nationally-ranked team," Zhang said. "We see ourselves as one of the top Big East tennis schools and now we have to prove it."
One thing the Knights have on their side is the amount of experience they will return next season. After putting out one of the best seasons in RU tennis history, eight of the nine current players will be on the roster next year.
Freshman Morgan Ivey sees great potential.
"[Our experience] will help a lot because now we will all come back knowing that we do belong, and that we are one of the better teams in the Big East," she said. "At the beginning of this year we were kind of unsure and now we have higher expectations for ourselves."
Experience is not the only thing the Knights have going for them. Team chemistry is at an all-time high, Zhang said.
"As a team we've become a family. We're all very close. We have a great team spirit. The freshmen really brought us together," Zhang said.
Ivey said that was part of the plan.
"[The freshmen] didn't really know what it was like before we got here but we just expected us to get along and hang out," she said. "We just wanted to hang out more off he court to help with the chemistry on the court. I guess that brought everyone closer."
This close-knit bunch will surely miss "the mom of the team," senior Polina Zaretser, but she believes the Knights can and will be successful in her absence.
"It's not just my play that got us here," the senior said. "It's a whole team effort. They now know they can compete with the top national teams and I truly believe in them."
Zaretser's absence will be felt on the court.
"Polina was instrumental in getting the victory against Marquette, which got us to the semifinals for the first time in school history," Bucca said. "That was a fitting tribute to an outstanding player who could not have worked harder for this team."