Senior returns to hometown for match
For the Rutgers tennis team, its three-game road trip to South Carolina during spring break serves as a chance for most of it to compete as well as experience playing outside of the Northeast.
But for senior Morgan Ivey, the trip represents something more memorable — she gets to go home.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Ivey said of returning to the Palmetto State. “It’s actually kind of funny that of all places that we happen to be going to is my hometown. Typically for spring break, the destination is Florida or California or someplace really exotic.”
The Scarlet Knights travel to Charleston to compete in three matches before they return to campus to continue their Big East schedule against Villanova. The Knights play Sunday against the College of Charleston, Boston University the following day and Charleston Southern on March 14.
Ivey is familiar with the two southern schools. She grew up in Mount Pleasant, located in Charleston, which she said is only minutes away from where Rutgers competes during the break.
“I could literally jog there,” Ivey said.
Many players the Knights will see are the same ones Ivey faced in high school.
South Carolina has always been home for Ivey. But tennis provided an opportunity for her to explore outside of the state and the idea of playing collegiate tennis away from home.
Ivey considered schools in California and Massachusetts. But it was a high school showcase at Yale that introduced the eventual team captain to head coach Ben Bucca. Ivey still wanted to look at other schools before she settled on a place to continue her tennis career.
As her last year of high school neared its conclusion, she had yet to make a choice and was still without a school late in the recruiting process. So when Bucca contacted her about joining the team, she was excited to have an opportunity to continue her career in the Big East.
“He recruited me again, and I said, ‘Yes, I’ll go. I don’t care where it is,’” Ivey said. “So I came never being on the campus before. It was really bizarre, but I came and I couldn’t be more happier or more grateful.”
She went from a small Catholic school in South Carolina with a senior graduating class of 38 to one of the biggest universities in the country.
“Size, diversity, speed, pace, everything is so much faster up here and took some serious adapting,” Ivey said.
While Bucca admitted Ivey looked rattled in her first couple of matches as a freshman, she adjusted quickly and combined with teammate Jennifer Holzberg for an 18-1 record in No. 3 doubles. It was the best mark during Bucca’s coaching career.
As a senior, Ivey competes in both No. 3 singles and doubles positions and has been a leader for Bucca’s team.
“This is her fourth year now with the program, and she knows what’s expected, and Morgan more than fulfills all of those expectations,” Bucca said. “She challenges herself as an athlete. She has improved her competitiveness and her ability to just be able to compete on the court and to have the confidence to be a confident competitor.”
Ivey now gets the chance to continue her successful campaign in the place she grew up her whole life. The co-captain also gets an opportunity to compete in front of her family.
Rutgers lies nearly 750 miles from her hometown, which makes it difficult for her family to watch her play.
“They haven’t been really able to come up,” Ivey said. “It’s too far of a travel for one match or two matches. My entire family is going to show up.”