Big East home opener offers break from road
Big East play resumes today for the Rutgers tennis team when Georgetown pays a visit to Piscataway. The Scarlet Knights (3-3, 0-1) look to halt a two-match losing streak and pick up their first conference victory of the spring. The Knights haven't faced a Big East opponent since a season-opening 7-0 loss at Syracuse. Senior captain Caitlin Baker views today's match with the Hoyas (1-2, 0-2) as a prime opportunity to start fresh within the conference.
"It's our Big East home opener so it's very important that we play well," Baker said. "None of us are thinking about the Syracuse match anymore, so in our minds this is a chance to begin again in conference play." RU is four days removed from a weekend of frustration. The Knights dropped two matches on the road against Binghamton and Cornell and fell back to .500. Prior to the losses, the team was riding high with three consecutive victories. The pressure is on the Knights to pick themselves up after the deflating losses. Assistant coach Alex Arlak said the squad has focused on handling the stress of a very critical matchup.
"During practice they're doing great, but during match play the pressure on our players has been a factor," Arlak said. "We've now started using more pressure situations as preparation so each girl has to overcome a tough situation, just like they would in a real match." Georgetown comes in desperate for a Big East victory. The Hoyas' last two matches were 4-3 defeats at West Virginia and Pittsburgh, respectively. Should the Knights lose, they would drop to 0-2 in conference play. The Hoyas fall into a 0-3 hole in the Big East with a loss. RU knows the danger of early conference struggles.
"Starting out 0-2 in the Big East would definitely damage our morale," Arlak said. "This match is very important for us. Georgetown is a very competitive team so we're really going to have to take it to them."
Getting in the Big East win column, however, is just as important as avoiding another loss.
"Getting our first Big East win is really important, especially coming off last weekend's losses," said junior team ace Amy Zhang. "It's time for us to begin playing our best tennis and we need to start against Georgetown." Zhang said the Knights have been their own worst enemies at times. If the team wants to reach its goal of 16 wins, it needs to limit self-inflicted mistakes. "A lot of the problems we've had are with unforced errors," she said. "We've got to cut down on those. If we can it will help a lot." The Knights' 11:30 a.m. match with the Hoyas is the first at the friendly confines of the RU Tennis Complex since 21 days ago when they hosted Farleigh Dickinson. After four consecutive road contests, the Knights are happy to be home. "I'm really glad we're playing at our bubble," Zhang said. "It's nice to not have to travel and you feel more comfortable at home. I hope we can use that to our advantage." The Knights obliterated Georgetown in 2009, winning 7-0 in Washington, D.C. They take on a much-improved Hoyas team today with conference bragging rights on the line. "We're looking to be one of the top seeds during the Big East tournament," Arlak said. "The only way to do that is to pick up wins. We can start against Georgetown."