May 25, 2019 | 69° F

Sophomore survives to semifinals

The Rutgers women’s tennis team re-wrote some of its own history this weekend at the annual USTA/ITA Division-I Women’s Northeast Regional Championship.

Sophomore Vanessa Petrini became the first Scarlet Knight in program history to advance to the tournament’s semifinals, where she lost to Yale’s Elizabeth Epstein in straight sets.

“What clearly distinguished her was her competitive spirit,” said head coach Ben Bucca. “When the points mattered, Vanessa was able to control the moment so she could play really good tennis at the right time while her opponents did not. It’s the little things that make all the difference in tennis.”

The tournament, which takes place at Yale, features a field of 88.

Petrini had three victories against seeded players on her way to the semifinal round. With the fall season now officially over for the Knights, Petrini can enter the offseason on a high note and use her strong fall finish when the spring season begins.

Bucca particularly enjoyed watching Petrini’s path through the tournament because he knew the Stamford, Conn., native set regional success as one of her preseason goals.

“I know that reaching the Regionals was one of her goals this year,” Bucca said. “So she worked hard over the summer, improved, and I’m sure she thinks that all of her hard work has finally paid off. She was definitely one of the shining stars.”

Petrini attributed her success this weekend to the hard work she put in since the conclusion of last season. But she recognizes she still has to work and noted improving her fitness remains one of the biggest goals for her offseason.

Her success at Yale capped an improved performance from her freshman to sophomore campaigns, as Petrini stepped into an elevated role for the Knights.

“I think that I stayed really mentally strong throughout the whole tournament,” Petrini said. “I really fed off of beating those that were seeded higher than me. I came in more physically fit than I was, and I’ve been working incredibly hard for the last two months at school. I did the best I could and it paid off.”

As for the rest of the weekend, Rutgers’ two doubles teams reached the second round before getting knocked out. Bucca made it clear that doubles play is one of the biggest things that the team must focus on for the spring season.

“I felt as though we could have had a better finish,” Bucca said. “But nevertheless we played well, and I’m sure we’ll play good doubles in the spring.”

With a short fall season in the books, Bucca, Petrini and the rest of the team now prepare for the lengthier spring season. Petrini’s performance sends them into the offseason with plenty of confidence, which can only help in a spring season that culminates with the Big East Tournament.

“This was definitely a confidence booster,” Bucca said. “Not only to Vanessa personally, but also the team. It’s the perfect way to end the fall season on such a high note. We have something special ahead of us in the spring.”

By T.J. Nagy

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