Knights put down Huskies in Big East win
The Rutgers tennis team entered March searching for consistency. On the first day of April, the Scarlet Knights are a model of it. RU overwhelmed Connecticut 6-1 in Storrs, Conn., yesterday afternoon, picking up a much-needed road win and extending its conference unbeaten streak to four. The team put its road struggles to rest as Rutgers earned its first Big East win beyond the Banks this season. Though the Huskies (3-8, 1-4) entered the contest as one of the conference's doormats, they won three of the last five matches, including a decision over Providence last Thursday. UConn played sharp, but the Knights (10-5, 4-1) were up to the challenge, according to senior captain Katherine Arlak. "UConn is a lot better than they were last year," Arlak said. "Physically though, I think we were fitter and we hit more consistently than they did. That made the difference. Everyone played very tough. Many of us had close matches and were able to come out on top."
Rutgers' No. 3 singles player Arlak was one of three Knights to win their match in straight sets. Arlak rolled 6-0, 6-3, while junior Amy Zhang and sophomore Maryana Milchutskey defeated their opponents 6-4, 7-5 and 6-2, 6-1, respectively. Zhang now sits at 12-3, while Arlak's win gives her 10 on the season. Sophomores Jen Holzberg and Leonora Slatnick chipped in with hard-fought three set victories. Slatnick got the better of her opponent in nine consecutive matches, a stretch in which the team went 7-2. "I've been playing well," Slatnick said. "Today was definitely a tougher match and I let the second set slip away. But I'm glad I was able to come back and take the third." The combination of Holzberg and Zhang, along with senior Caitlin Baker and freshman Michelle Green led the Knights to a 2-1 advantage in doubles play. There are nine women on Rutgers' roster. Seven of them contributed to the team's point total versus UConn. "We're pretty happy with everything right now," Green said. "Feeling very good about our record at this point and about the way we've been playing." Rutgers' record on the road is now back to .500 at 5-5. It's vitally important the team remains on the upswing away from home, since three consecutive conference road matches lie ahead. After participating in seven contests over the past three weeks, Rutgers is off until Tuesday, when it travels to Seton Hall. Slatnick believes her teammates will use the down time to their advantage.
"We're going to have practice [today] but then we'll have a few days off to rest up and catch up on school work." she said. "It should help us finish strong." Rutgers needs its strength in April, when it rounds out the regular season with five crucial conference matchups. The Knights effectively tossed the Huskies out of Big East contention yesterday, while asserting themselves among the pack of conference frontrunners.
"Each win that we pick up boosts our confidence, especially when it comes in the Big East," Arlak said. "Nobody wants to lose in the conference so you've got play tough and we did."