Junior's consistency helps carry Knights
There are a plethora of adjectives that can describe Jennifer Holzberg, but she would only choose two: aggressive and consistent. Anyone following the Rutgers tennis team during the 2011 season would be hard pressed to argue with that description of the junior from Easton, Conn.
"I have definitely exceeded my own expectations this year," Holzberg said. "I feel like I'm playing some of the best tennis since I have been at Rutgers and I have felt very confident in each match that I have played."
Holzberg occupies the No. 2 slot in the Scarlet Knights' singles lineup, but is realistically the No. 1-A to senior captain Amy Zhang's No. 1-B. She boasts a 14-3 individual record, which is the best on the team in all 17 matches and one win better than former All-Big East competitor Zhang.
"[Holzberg] always tries her hardest in matches and in practice, including fitness training and weightlifting," Zhang said. "She's a steady player who always fights on the court."
Zhang went through a slump in late February when she lost three singles matches to Columbia, Louisville and Xavier in a nearly two-week span. Holzberg served as a catalyst for the team during the rough stretch, picking up wins in each of the matches when Zhang fell.
"I am a very positive person on the tennis court, whether I am in a match or at practice," Holzberg said. "I think that helps everyone around me to remain very positive, as well, and to work as hard as they can."
Holzberg may have an advantage in the win column over Zhang in singles, but there is no animosity between the two teammates and close friends. The pair forms Rutgers' No. 1 doubles squad, and with a 13-4 record, camaraderie is at an all-time high.
"Amy and I have been playing together for almost two years now so we are very comfortable with each other," Holzberg said. "We know exactly how one another plays and are very familiar each other's style on the court. We are both highly aggressive at the net and baseline, which allows us to dictate points and execute effectively."
The entire Knights squad is clicking on all cylinders lately despite a lot of partner-swapping in the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles slots. Rutgers owns five straight wins in the Big East and eight matches overall, during which time Holzberg has seven singles wins and eight doubles victories.
"Our team is playing really well this season and we can continue to do even better in these next few weeks," Holzberg said. "We set a goal to be 16-4 this season, and I think we will definitely meet that goal if we continue playing well."
If the Knights run the table, they have a good shot at the No. 6 seed in the Big East Tournament as they look to avenge last year's postseason loss to South Florida. The match still lingers in Holzberg's mind, as it would with any hypercompetitive athlete.
"It was tough to lose in the second round to South Florida last year, but we played well against them," Holzberg said. "Each match was close and we played very competitively against such a highly ranked team. This season I really want to prove that we are a team worthy of a national ranking and we can perform really well in the Big East Tournament."
No matter how the Knights finish the season, Holzberg will be counted on as a major contributor again next year. There is a very good chance that she will compete in the top spot for Rutgers in 2012. If anyone is up to that daunting task, it is Holzberg.
"I'm not sure if I will be playing No. 1 next year, but it is a possibility," Holzberg said. "I am a very competitive person who is willing to do whatever it takes to win, and I think I am prepared to take on that role."