Knights fall short at Syracuse
The Rutgers tennis team traveled more than four hours this weekend to start its Big East season.
It returned to Piscataway with a loss Sunday, as Syracuse dropped the Scarlet Knights, 4-3.
The Orange entered the conference opener with a four-match winning streak before defeating the Knights — a stat head coach Ben Bucca was well aware of upon arrival.
Syracuse’s four-match stretch, including a victory against a ranked Harvard club, served as another test for the Knights in the early part of the season.
“It was a hard-fought, well played match by both teams,” Bucca said. “Syracuse just came out slightly ahead. Syracuse, they’re a good team.”
Syracuse, ranked the 73rd-best team in the country by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, gave Rutgers all it could handle in doubles play.
Senior Jennifer Holzberg teamed up with sophomore Vanessa Petrini to deliver a victory in the first doubles position. The duo defeated the Orange’s Emily Harman and Breanna Bachini, 8-6.
But their performance was not enough.
Sophomore Stefania Balasa and freshman Noor Judeh dropped their doubles match, 9-7, while senior Morgan Ivey and freshman Lindsay Balsamo could not win in the third doubles position. The latter’s 8-3 loss against Alessondra Parra and Komal Safdar gave Syracuse the first point of the match.
“Doubles really reflected the match,” Bucca said. “We had to be satisfied that we played well, but we were so close to winning the doubles point that to lose it was disappointing.”
The doubles point proved to be the deciding factor in Syracuse’s victory. Both teams split singles match play, 3-3.
Harman exacted revenge against Holzberg in the first singles position. The Syracuse senior won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
While Holzberg could not capitalize in first singles, Petrini found success in the third position. Her 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 decision against Bachini highlighted the sophomore’s impressive day. Petrini was the only Knight to win in both singles and doubles play.
“I felt like I played really, really well [Sunday],” Petrini said. “I think because I won in my doubles, that momentum went over to my singles. I was really determined to win.”
While Petrini survived in singles, Syracuse handled the rest of Rutgers’ (4-2, 0-1)?singles lineup. Balasa and Balsamo won in their matches, but Syracuse’s Maddie Kobelt defeated Ivey, 6-1, 6-2, in the second singles matchup. Judeh suffered a shutout in her match, 6-0, 6-0, to cap the Knights’ second loss of the season.
The Orange served as Rutgers’ second ranked opponent of the season. The Knights dropped a 7-0 match the previous week against No. 43 Princeton.
While Bucca was disappointed with the outcome, he felt pleased with the way the team performed.
“They got a couple of quick points in the singles, but on the whole we really battled hard,” he said. “The whole match reflected two teams that were relatively even matched.”
The Knights’ loss comes after their victory Friday against Army. Rutgers defeated the service academy at the Atlantic Club, 5-2, which halted the Black Knights’ six-match winning streak.
Rutgers has three days before its next match Friday against Georgetown. The Hoyas enter the match with a 4-2 record after defeating Old Dominion on Saturday, 5-2.
“We just have to work hard,” Bucca said. “In discussing with the team, we seem to be content to focus on what we did this past week, and that was really to look to play aggressive, disciplined tennis.”