Freshman aids Rutgers in early stretch
Contributing as a freshman in any sport on the Division-I level is a feat not many student athletes attain.
For freshman Lindsay Balsamo, being a part of the Rutgers tennis team has the rookie energized with the potential that lies ahead of her.
“It is really exciting,” Balsamo said. “I’m thrilled to be playing and to be part of such a great team. It’s exciting to be starting.”
Not only has Balsamo been a visible member of the program, but her play for head coach Ben Bucca has been a key component to the team’s early season success. The Scarlet Knights started off the spring campaign with a 2-0 record.
Balsamo plays in the No. 6 position for the Knights, which allows her to ease into her first year competing in Division-I tennis. She responded well to her role and has delivered two match wins in Rutgers’ first two victories.
In her first match of the season against Lehigh, Balsamo shut out Jill Sloand in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0.
Her second singles competition yielded similar results, as she took down Gaby Sarrate, 6-0, 6-1, in Sunday’s 7-0 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Her early-season triumphs make Balsamo assured for when the team faces more challenging competition come Big East match play.
“It gives me confidence for when we meet more challenging teams,” Balsamo said. “It’s nice to have a couple wins under my belt already.”
Bucca also likes the way she competes with fellow teammate, senior Morgan Ivey, in doubles play. The duo competes in the third doubles position and has registered two match wins for the team.
“She has paired up really nicely with Morgan and has done great playing in the [No. 6] singles position for us,” Bucca said. “She gives us depth, which is what you need to win on this level.”
While success on the court comes natural to Balsamo, the Wall, N.J., native says the biggest change for her was adjusting from starting on her high school team to contributing right away at Rutgers.
The level of competition has been different, Balsamo said. Her fast start has Balsamo grateful for her upper classman teammates.
“Division-I tennis is a lot more challenging, but my teammates have helped me a lot,” Balsamo said. “It is nice to see how they have come such a long way from freshmen and see how they manage their time with tennis. They’re great role models.”
The leadership and example the upperclassmen provided will come in handy for Balsamo and the rest of her teammates as they inch closer to Big East play. The Knights play three more out-of-conference matches before they square off against Syracuse, their first Big East opponent.
While the challenge is evident, Bucca knows Balsamo will continue to improve as the season progresses and is confident in his improving freshman.
“All I can expect from Lindsay is that she works hard and plays hard,” Bucca said. “She has improved significantly, and as long as she keeps doing what she’s doing, she is going to have a lot of wins for us.”
The fact that her coach has such confidence in her has Balsamo excited to be a member of the program and keep improving.
“I love being part of the team and getting to represent such a large student body,” Balsamo said.