May 22, 2019 | 66° F

RU?tunes up for season against visiting NJIT

The Rutgers tennis team was in for a surprise yesterday, when its scrimmage against NJIT was moved up due to a scheduling mix up.

Even though the Scarlet Knights were a little unprepared, their match against their in-state rival provided them with some much-needed experience before the official start of the season. After two and a half hours of friendly competition, head coach Ben Bucca was satisfied with what he saw from his players.

“I’m sure I speak for all the girls when I say that this match is showing what we are doing really well,” Bucca said. “NJIT is a strong team, so they’re also exposing what we don’t do so well.”

There’s still some time before the Knights first challenge, which comes on Sep. 23 at the Brown Invitational. Over the next week, Bucca and his team will assess what still needs to be done in order to turn the Knights into a recognizable force in the Big East and beyond.

“We have a history of a strong competitive spirit.” Bucca said. “I’m rather confident that this team, with the senior leadership we have, will be able to make the big shots when we need to.”

Leadership will be one of the biggest keys for success this season for the Knights, and it looks like the seniors are up for the challenge in their final year at Rutgers.

“I think our leadership is really important, especially since we have three freshmen,” said senior Jennifer Holzberg. “We want to show them how we’re supposed to play. That positive energy is very important.”

There are still a few areas the team needs to address before the season officially kicks off, Bucca said. For one thing, Bucca was not at all satisfied with the Knight’s performance in doubles competition.

First-game jitters and frustration were also problems for the Knights yesterday, but that’s what Bucca expected during the team’s first competition of the season.

“I think it comes from two things,” Bucca said of the nerves. “One, we have three freshmen who are nervous because they’re playing in their first match. Then there’s the seniors also who are coming out for the first time in their final year.

“Their excitement in making this last year their best year has led to some nerves in the beginning, but that all will subside after a while, and that’s what going to bring the best out of our players.”

Holzberg did admit that the small scheduling conflict in yesterday’s scrimmage did take the entire team by surprise and even affected their performances.

“I think we could have used a longer warm up,” Holzberg said. “We weren’t exactly 100 percent, but it was still good. We found out what everyone needs to work on in their matches.”

Even with the confusion, it still ended up being a productive day for the Knights, and an overall successful start to a much-anticipated season.

“NJIT is a strong team and we’re evenly matched,” Bucca said. “This has been a perfect scrimmage. Great weather. Great competition. It’s been a meaningful day for us in preparing for Brown.”

By T.J. Nagy

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