Doubles play gives Rutgers advantage
MANASQUAN, N.J. — Rutgers head tennis coach Ben Bucca stressed the importance of winning the doubles point all season to set the tone for the rest of the match.
That emphasis was evident Sunday, as the Scarlet Knights defeated St. John’s, 4-3, at the Atlantic Club.
With the Knights splitting singles, 3-3, their victory in doubles play was the reason they captured their second straight win.
“Doubles is key, especially in these matches that are close,” Bucca said. “This was a tough match, and we played strong doubles throughout.”
Senior Jennifer Holzberg and sophomore Vanessa Petrini led the way in doubles action, notching an 8-6 win against St. John’ s (3-9, 2-2) Nevena Selakovic and Nakita Austin in the No. 1 position.
Senior Morgan Ivey paired with freshman Lindsay Balsamo for a victory in No. 2 doubles, while sophomore Stefania Balasa and freshman Noor Judeh completed the doubles point sweep with an 8-3 win against Diamond Adams and Terri Thomas.
“This was a tough match,” Bucca said. “They are a much better team than their record indicates, and we played well.”
The toughness of the match could have been a result of returning indoors to play. The Knights began to get acclimated with outdoor play after their three-game spring break trip and their 7-0 victory Thursday against Villanova. But the weather forced them to move indoors for the match.
“I think it is a big difference,” Ivey said. “It’s tougher going from inside to outside because it’s much more physical, but it is different and took us all off guard a little bit.”
In singles play, two quick victories by Ivey and Balasa gave the Knights (8-6, 3-3) a 3-0 advantage. Ivey won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0, while Balasa also delivered a straight set win, downing Austin, 6-4, 6-2.
Balsamo and Petrini lost their singles matches, with Selakovic proving too much for Petrini in the No. 1 spot. Petrini took the first set, but Selakovic overcame the deficit with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 advantage.
Balsamo lost a close No. 5 singles match to the Johnnies’ Ece Firat 4-6, 7-6, 10-7.
But Judeh won her match in No. 6 singles, 6-1, 6-2, against Thomas, sealing the win for Rutgers.
The most interesting match of the day was also the last, as Holzberg battled Adams in No. 2 singles action. Both players went back and forth with points, but Holzberg could not take advantage of Adam’s injured right ankle as Adam won in straight sets, 7-6 (5), 7-5.
While the win gave St. John’s its third singles match win of the day, the Knights’ performance in doubles proved to be the deciding factor.
“In singles where we lost, it was close, and where we won, we won decisively,” Bucca said. “We fought well, and I think everyone played well.”
Rutgers takes a break from conference play when it travels to New Haven, Conn., on March 30 to take on Yale.