May 22, 2019 | 66° F

Sophomore credits increased role to comfort

After a full year on the Rutgers tennis team, sophomore Stefania Balasa is ready to become an impact player for the Scarlet Knights.

“I feel like there’s a little less pressure than last year because I’m a little more used to it,” Balasa said. “Last year, I really didn’t know what to expect what was coming. Even at Brown last week, I definitely wasn’t as nervous as I was my freshmen year.”

With her confidence on the court is as strong as ever, Balasa’s season started off on the right foot.

Balasa was a standout at the Knights’ last tournament and went 3-0 in doubles matches two weeks ago at the Brown Invitational. But she knows there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“My mental game still needs some work, especially because I get frustrated really easily when I miss,” Balasa said.

With the USTA Invitational on the horizon, Balasa expects the same results as her last match, and hopes this week’s practice will improve upon her early season success.

“This weekend I’m going to have a different partner than the one I had at Brown, so it’ll be different because we’ve been practicing more and getting used to each other’s play,” Balasa said. “But we’re pretty excited about this weekend because we weren’t really expecting the results that we had last weekend. So we understand that maybe we need to work harder, and that’s what we’ve been doing over the past week and a half.”

Now an experienced member of the team, Balasa has plenty of knowledge to pass down to her new freshmen teammates. She also continues to grow in her own game by listening to upperclassmen.

“I tell the freshmen that during the Fall it’s all about getting used to playing in a college atmosphere, and get used to playing with a team again,” Balasa said. “They’ve been really good at that this year. As for the seniors, they’ve always been a really good source of knowledge for me, though, especially this year. They’re just very supportive, which is really important for us.”

Support is a key component to the team’s success, and Balasa knows how important it will be as the season progresses.

“It’s definitely very important that we all get along,” Balasa said. “It’s just about staying honest with each other, and we’ve been very good at that this year. But we can always get along better, so we’re working on that and seeing how our chemistry will work out during match play. So we’ll see how it goes this weekend at the tournament.”

The Knights have always had strong team chemistry and competitive spirit they need in order to succeed.

Now that her role on the team grew, Balasa started to become the leader she always knew she could be, while at the same time continuing to improve her game every day.

“Coming in last year, I got along with the team and that’s carrying into this year, which is nice,” Balasa said. “It’s great to just always have people around that I can talk to. As a team, we have to continue to show that kind of support for each other and remain confident in ourselves that we belong here and that we can do well.”

By T.J. Nagy

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