May 25, 2019 | 69° F

Sophomore’s tournament run caps RU’s fall season

The fall season officially wrapped up for the Rutgers women’s tennis team, but its hard work is far from over.

For head coach Ben Bucca and his team, the fall season certainly yielded successes for the Scarlet Knights, including a historic run at the ITA regional tournament.

Sophomore Vanessa Petrini became the first player in Rutgers history to reach the semifinals of the tournament. But Petrini is aware she and the team still have a long road to go once the spring season starts up.

“I definitely learned a lot of things that I need to improve this season, like being a little more physically fit, but that’s definitely a big thing that I’m working on,” Petrini said.

The Knights made their presence known in the region with strong play at each of their tournaments. They played against the top competition in the East and proved they were capable of beating quality opponents.

Thanks to a strong senior core of Jennifer Holzberg, Morgan Ivey and Leonora Slatnick, many of the Knights’ younger players made huge strides in their on-court performances.

“We’ll be preparing for this spring as we do for most springs,” Bucca said. “We’ll focus on fitness, not only training the body physically but also mental and emotional training.”

The Knights’ biggest success this season occurred at the USTA Invitational. Led by Petrini, freshman Lindsay Balsamo and junior Michelle Green, the Knights compiled a 13-8 record in singles and a 5-4 record in doubles.

Doubles competition was a big question mark entering the season. But the Knights experienced a good deal of success in that area, especially last month at the Brown Invitational.

Bucca knows the Knights still need some work if they want to continue their improvement.

“We’ll also be working hard on doubles in our effort to be effective in our doubles play,” Bucca said. “I’m very confident that if we work on that we’ll have a great spring.”

The Big East Championship awaits the Knights at the end of the spring and is one of the reflections of the overall success of its season.

The Knights grabbed a No. 6 seed last year in the tournament.

Rutgers’ fall showing, especially Petrini’s run at Regionals, provides the team with plenty of confidence. The fall season provided the team with the experience necessary for a longer spring season.

“It’s great ending this season on such a positive note,” Bucca said. “And we know we have a tough spring coming up, which is exactly what we want.”

By T.J. Nagy

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