Sophomore breaks hearts, takes games in Maryland
A memo to teams across the country — do not schedule a Valentine's Day date with the Rutgers tennis team next year. If you do, odds are Maryana Milchutskey will break your heart. Milchutskey, a sophomore, clinched a 4-3 victory over Maryland for the Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-1) in the team's final match on Sunday in College Park, MD. It marks the second consecutive Valentine's Day that she has come up big in the same situation. Then a freshman, Milchutskey put the finishing touches on a 2009 win over Xavier. This year, she overcame the pressure and took down the Terrapins.
"I started off my match down 4-0, and it was tense because I knew my team was counting on me to win," Milchutskey said. "They were standing on court next to me cheering and Maryland was doing the same for [their player]." She won by a 7-5, 6-3 decision that served as a punctuation mark at the conclusion of the team's third straight win. Beating ACC-foe Maryland capped off a very productive weekend for the Knights. RU cruised by Lehigh 7-0 in Bethlehem, Pa., on Friday before beating Maryland in Sunday's nail-biter. Exactly two weeks after their upsetting opening match loss at Syracuse, the Knights are playing like a totally different squad, said head coach Ben Bucca.
"Today we were just a much better team than we were at Syracuse," Bucca said. "The girls have a great competitive spirit and it's infectious among the team. They played focused and made big shots when they needed to the most." The Knights were the heavy favorites in their match against Lehigh and they showed why by swiftly annihilating the Mountain Hawks. Yesterday's match was an entirely different story. It was a dogfight and the outcome was up in the air until the final shot. Maryland swept RU in three doubles matches to take early command of the contest.
The team maintained composure despite the rough start, senior captain Katherine Arlak said.
"We didn't play the kind of doubles that we know we're capable of playing," she said. "But we pulled it together in singles and we were the last team standing on the court at the end." Junior Amy Zhang, sophomore Leonora Slatnick, freshman Michelle Green and Milchutskey won their singles matches. Zhang, the team's ace, dropped her first set 6-7 in a tiebreaker, but was able to rally and take the next two 6-4, 6-3. "Even though I loss my first set, I still felt like I was going to win. There was no doubt in my mind," Zhang said. "Our whole team has a lot of confidence right now. This match was so close and exciting, but I don't think we ever thought we were going to lose." Bucca has noticed his team's burgeoning confidence and knows it serves the Knights well as the spring progresses. "When you combine the overall positive attitude that this team possesses with wins on the court, we've got the formula for a very successful season," he said.