Rutgers uses consecutive sweeps as motivation
The Rutgers tennis team attempts to keep its two-match win streak alive this weekend while facing the daunting task of competing in back-to-back days. The Scarlet Knights host in-state opponent Fairleigh Dickinson in their first home match of the season today before heading to New York on Saturday to square off with Columbia.
The Knights (2-1) are coming off a weekend when they defeated both Lehigh and Army, 7-0, on the road. A win against Lehigh came as no surprise, but the Army shutout revealed a lot about the caliber of the team.
"We've always had very tightly contested matches against Army," said head coach Ben Bucca. "Lately we've seemed to have a little bit of an edge over them, but to go up to [West Point, N.Y.,] and come up with a shutout win shows our great strength and spirit."
While the Knights certainly deserve accolades for their play of late, it was the academic achievement of their senior captain Amy Zhang that drew praise this week.
Zhang earned the 2010-11 American Eagle Outfitters Big East Institutional Female Scholar-Athlete Award on Wednesday for tennis. Zhang, a computer science major, will receive a $2,000 scholarship along with the award.
On the court though, Zhang and Co. look to extend the shutout streak against Fairleigh Dickinson in their first match in New Jersey since an opening day loss at Princeton. The match will be played at the Atlantic Club in Manasquan, N.J., after the Busch Tennis Bubble collapsed last month due to winter weather.
"Having to travel has cut into our practice time, but I think it makes us better equipped to deal with adversity," said junior Morgan Ivey. "Showing a strong record without having a home court definitely attests to our determination to succeed."
The team practiced at the Atlantic Club for the first time yesterday in an effort to familiarize themselves with their temporary home. The Knights will be without their usual home-court advantage as the 30 minute pilgrimage to Manasquan is expected to be too much for many Rutgers fans.
It would be a mistake for the Knights to take FDU lightly or look past them with a match against Columbia looming on the horizon, according to Ivey.
"In the past, we've had a strong record against them, but every year is different," Ivey said. "They can be a tricky team to play, so we need to stay focused in every match."
The Knights seek revenge on the Ivy League after falling to Princeton earlier this season and Saturday's match against Columbia is expected to be closely contested. Columbia (3-0) enters with an unblemished record and owns a shutout victory over Fairleigh Dickinson. Rutgers is hoping a victory over a team of Columbia's caliber will vault them into the national spotlight.
"This is a great opportunity for us," Ivey said. "If we play like we have been, then we can show that we deserve to be ranked."