Knights seek first win in Bethlehem
The Rutgers tennis team looks to notch its first victory of the season today as it travels to Bethlehem, Pa., to face Lehigh.
The Scarlet Knights return to the Lewis Tennis Center for the second straight year after shutting out the Mountain Hawks, 7-0, last season on their home court.
"We are looking to shut them out again," said junior Jennifer Holzberg. "We want to come out strong and play the way we have been practicing."
The Knights (0-1) had a full week of practice since their opening day loss at Princeton. The key area of focus for the team has been its doubles game after losing all four doubles contests against the Tigers.
"We're working hard on basic things, like getting first serve in and staying aggressive on baseline," said head coach Ben Bucca. "We'll keep working on these things in practice and they're going to come through in matches."
Bucca's squad has also been working heavily on returns and what it calls "aggressive consistency" in practice. The Knights also place a higher priority on physical fitness than most teams and do just about as much mental conditioning work as any team in the nation.
"We spend a lot of time talking about handling emotions and fitness," Bucca said. "These girls are at such an advanced level of play that they need to be able to handle the trials and tribulations of competing in a college match and the physical demands of playing this sport."
The team had to practice at the East Brunswick Racquet Club due to the collapse of the Busch Tennis Bubble. They had some complications travelling to and from the facility, but despite the inconvenience the Knights have made the best of their situation so far.
"We would love to be on campus of course, but at the East Brunswick Racquet Club we are able to use more than three courts at a time," Holzberg said. "The facility is really nice and the staff has been very hospitable."
Rutgers also travels to West Point, N.Y., Saturday to face Army. The Knights defeated Army in each of the past two seasons despite some close matches.
"We have a long tradition of close contests with Army," Bucca said. "I don't expect anything to be different this year. It's an early morning match so we need to get up and be ready to play."
In a physically demanding sport like tennis, it would seem illogical to schedule matches in two out of three days. Facing two tough opponents like Lehigh and Army back-to-back does not faze Bucca's team and it feels it is up to the challenge.
"I prefer to have a quick turnaround instead of a week off because I feel more ‘match ready.' It keeps me focused from match to match," Holzberg said.
The Knights are also working hard to fundraise for their Spring Break trip to New Orleans and hosted their annual Tennis Party last weekend.
Seventy-five people attended the event — the highest turnout ever — and the team was able to raise $10,000. A portion of the profits will also go towards the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund.