Pair of Knights foes provide ranked test in Milwaukee
With a 5-2 early spring record in place, Rutgers head tennis coach Ben Bucca knows this weekend provides an opportunity for his team to improve its Big East standing.
It also serves as a chance for the Scarlet Knights to add a national ranking to their résumé.
The Knights play host Marquette today at 1 p.m. in Milwaukee and square off tomorrow against No. 36 DePaul. Both teams give Rutgers a chance to climb into the polls for the first time this season.
“It should hopefully give us a shot and I know what everyone has their eye on, and that is to get a national ranking,” Bucca said. “We are really close to it and are right on the cusp, so in order to get a national ranking, you have to beat nationally ranked teams.”
Marquette will be Rutgers’ first test. The Golden Eagles enter today’s match after they dropped Sunday’s 4-3 decision to in-state rival Wisconsin. Their 7-2 record includes Big East victories against West Virginia and Connecticut.
Marquette won last season’s matchup against the Knights, 4-3, a score that indicates how close the two teams battled each other since the Golden Eagles joined the conference in 2005.
“This is a big weekend. We’ve always had a great rivalry with Marquette,” Bucca said. “They are always an upper-tier Big East team. This year I’m expecting an equally close match with them. They have a very strong winning record.”
Rutgers arrived yesterday in Wisconsin and practiced last night at Marquette’s facility. It gave the team an opportunity to adjust and get familiar with the court they will use for the next two days, Bucca said.
While Marquette has its home court to use in its favor, the Knights’ Saturday opponent has its national ranking as an advantage.
DePaul has lost two of its last three contests, but its last match resulted in a 4-3 victory against No.31 Arkansas. The Knights will serve as the Blue Demons’ (9-3) first Big East opponent of the spring season.
Rutgers also looks to defeat DePaul for the first time under Bucca. In order to do so, strong doubles play must start early for the Knights.
While they lost the doubles point in last weekend’s 4-3 victory against Georgetown, Rutgers cannot afford to start off slow in doubles against both teams.
Senior Morgan Ivey and freshman Lindsay Balsamo provided the only win in doubles against the Hoyas with their 8-0 shutout of Georgetown’s’ Lauren Jaegar and Alexandra Landers. They will have to continue their consistent play in the No. 3 doubles position to give the Knights early momentum in both matches.
“[Ivey and Balsamo] certainly gives everyone a lot of confidence,” Bucca said. “They are playing strong tennis, but more importantly, they are playing strategically good tennis and they are implementing many of the strategies that we talk about in practice.”
While the Knights’ play against both teams this weekend will dictate whether they enter the national rankings, Bucca believes his team has worked hard enough this season to give themselves an opportunity to perform well.
“If we can implement in a match what we’ve been doing in practice, then that’s what we can control and that’s what I’m looking for,” Bucca said. “I have a feeling that if we do that, the wins will take care of themselves.”