Conference sweep steers Knights back on track
Consider the Rutgers tennis team back on the upswing. The Scarlet Knights (4-3, 1-1) swept away Georgetown yesterday afternoon 7-0. Hosting a match for the first time in three weeks, the Knights made quick work of their Big East rivals while picking up their first conference win. After a rough past weekend, in which RU lost two matches, head coach Ben Bucca believes yesterday's win provided his team with much needed momentum. "This was a tremendously motivational victory for us. We looked like a significantly improved team," Bucca said. "We are getting better with each match and that's encouraging."
The Knights set the tone early, claiming victories in all three doubles matches. A successful start was crucial for a squad looking to regain its confidence. "We entered this match really wanting to win," said junior Amy Zhang. "We thought Georgetown would be a challenge and we were ready for however they played." As it turned out, the Hoyas weren't much of a challenge at all. Senior Katherine Arlak double-bageled her opponent 6-0, 6-0 to start off singles play. Arlak enjoyed her victory, which put RU in front 2-0. "Last weekend I had a tough match at Cornell. It was a long one," Arlak said. "So to win 6-0, 6-0 and give us a nice early lead was great."
The focus then shifted to Zhang, RU's number one singles player, who was locked in a dramatic back-and-forth battle with Georgetown's Vicky Sekely. Zhang dropped a hard fought first set 7-5. Faced with the task of coming from behind and giving her team a 3-0 match advantage, the Knights' ace elevated her game. By the end of her 6-1 second set victory, it was apparent that Zhang had more left in the tank than Sekely. Putting her precision and stamina on display, Zhang reminded everyone why she is one of the conference's finest as she outlasted Sekely 10-7 to win a third set tiebreaker. Though there were three singles matches playing out at the same time, it was hard not to focus on Zhang's masterpiece. Sophomore Morgan Ivey continues to be amazed by her teammate's drive.
"Amy's so good at conserving her energy throughout the match," Ivey said. "She could play five sets if she had to." Holding a commanding 3-0 lead over the Hoyas, the Knights needed one more point to seal the deal and pick up their first Big East victory. Sophomore Jen Holzberg did the honors, winning 6-5, 6-5. Holzberg clinched the victory, but RU continued to pour it on. Maryana Milchutskey won in convincing fashion 6-1, 6-0, while freshman Michelle Green and sophomore Leonora Slatnick also picked up wins in their matches.
"We came out playing hard today and we were determined," Milchutskey said. "It was nice to see RU down the scoreboard." Playing in a near must-win game in Big East play, the Knights rose to the occasion in a big way. RU made shot after shot and continuously swatted away any threat the Hoyas presented.
"One of the strengths of Rutgers tennis is that we have a group of girls that are strong competitors," Bucca said. "During those tense moments in the match when many falter, we seem to come up with the big shots."