Season ends with USF sweep in second round
A 4-0 loss to South Florida in the Big East tournament closed the curtain on the Rutgers tennis team's 2010 season. The Scarlet Knights were bulled over on Friday in the second round of the tourney in South Bend, Ind., as a predominately successful spring reached a disappointing conclusion. The Knights finish the year with a record of 14-8. But unlike last season, the team failed to advance beyond the second day of the tournament and must settle for a one-win postseason. That victory came on Thursday, when Rutgers pounded Pittsburgh 4-0 in round one. Less than a month removed from a 7-0 defeat in Piscataway, the Panthers were once again dismantled at the hands of the Knights. However, the thrill of yet another pummeling of Pittsburgh was short-lived. Just 24 hours after the win, Rutgers was again involved in a shutout match — though this time, it was on the wrong end of the equation. The talented No. 24 South Florida squad was able to stay ahead of the Knights throughout the contest and cruised to a conference win. Rutgers assistant coach Alex Arlak feels her team had a shot at earning a victory before USF shifted into high gear. "We competed well against South Florida," Arlak said. "They were definitely vulnerable in some places and we came close to using that to our advantage. But they are a very talented team and were able to take it to us in the end." Friday's defeat is the latest in a series of losses against ranked opponents. Rutgers has never beaten a nationally ranked team and the Bulls made sure that trend continued. "It was a disappointment to lose in the second round," Arlak said. "We have trouble getting over that hump and beating teams that are highly ranked. It's something that this program needs to work on and it's important if we want to keep moving forward." Sophomore singles player Jen Holzberg echoed her coach's sentiments when looking back on the match. "Part of it is frustrating because you always want to finally beat a top ranked team," Holzberg said. "But it also motivates us to work hard so that we can do it next year." "I feel like we did have a very good chance of beating South Florida. I know they were ranked very highly but we were neck and neck with them most of the way. The match was a lot closer than the score shows and we can take some positives out of it." Despite the lopsided decision, Rutgers saw some highly contentious matches against USF. Holzberg took USF's Melissa Koning to a first-set tiebreaker before losing in the No. 2 singles slot, while junior ace Amy Zhang and senior Katherine Arlak each fought hard through tough defeats. Arlak, a team captain who played her final match in scarlet on Friday, said her last Big East tournament was bittersweet. "I think we did play pretty well," she said. "We beat Pitt the way we expected to and we were definitely happy about that. Unfortunately, we lost to a good USF team and that was frustrating. We would have liked to move on to the next round but it didn't happen." The Bulls' win would be the last of their season. USF was beaten 4-0 on Saturday by DePaul, who squared off with tournament host No.5 Notre Dame yesterday in the conference championship. The Irish pummeled the Blue Demons 4-0 to win the Big East crown in front of their home crowd.
Though Rutgers was not able to duplicate its 2009 postseason run, when it advanced to the tourney's semifinals, Holzberg said there's no reason to sulk. "It's disappointing that we didn't make it to the semis because we had the opportunity in front of us," she said. "But I do think we came into the tournament playing really strong. We beat Pittsburgh even worse than we did a month ago and before that we ended the season with a few great Big East wins. It's definitely something to build off."