Mission accomplished: RU finishes 14-4
With a 7-0 victory over Connecticut, the Rutgers women's tennis team put an exclamation point at the end of a season to remember.
This victory was the sixth straight and 10th in the last 11 attempts. It finalized the team's goal of a 14-4 record.
Head coach Ben Bucca's praise for the team captain cut through the bitter cold at the RU Tennis Complex and brought tears to the wind-beaten faces of the Scarlet Knights.
Prior to the match senior Polina Zaretser was honored in front of family and friends.
"Early in her career Polina was faced with one of the toughest challenges an athlete can face: a major injury," Bucca said. "But one of the major things that Polina brings to this team is the clear respect that she has for the opportunity that she has been given. She worked so hard to get back to the form she was in before her injury, and I would say that she made significant improvements to her game."
After the gifts were given and words were spoken, new Athletic Director Tim Pernetti spoke the words everyone wanted to hear: "Let's play some tennis!"
The Knights wiped the tears from their cheeks and put their game faces on.
This was no homecoming-style beat down. Three out of the six singles matches went to a tiebreaker set and the last match ended three and a half hours after the scheduled start. It was clear the team played their hearts out for the leader of the team.
"Polina is awesome," freshman Leonora Slatnick said. "She's such a good captain and we're glad that we had such a good last match for her."
Junior Christine Tran wanted to show the same commitment Zaretser displays.
"We wanted to [send her out] on a really good note," Tran said. "Her intensity and her training [will leave an impact on me]. She gives 110 percent no matter what, even if she isn't feeling well."
The hard work of her teammates helped Zaretser break through a number of boundaries.
"We beat teams this year that we haven't beaten in my three previous years," Zaretser said. "It's a great because it shows that the girls really worked hard."
The work is not done simply because the regular season has ended. Now RU has its sights set on Tampa, Fla. for the Big East Championships.
No one on this team wants Zaretser's season to come to a halt.
"We bounced back [from the Cincinnati loss] and we haven't lost a match since," Slatnick said. "We're going to fight our hardest like we have been and hopefully upset some teams higher than us."
"We're making sure the Big East knows that we're actually a really strong team and we have the potential to get a national ranking," Tran said. "As a team we know our potential. The fact that we've won six straight matches says a lot. We have to continue the winning and keep this mentality up."