Knights begin postseason in South Florida
With a No. 8 seed in the Big East Tournament, the Rutgers tennis team enters its match against No. 9 Cincinnati today off of its most recent victory: a 6-1 win against West Virginia.
“To have such a convincing win against West Virginia was good,” said head coach Ben Bucca. “Our win reflects the high quality of play that we have been experiencing.”
That play, which includes six straight Big East wins, aids the Scarlet Knights, who compete in the first round of the tournament. The Bearcats arrive in Tampa on the heels of a three-game skid.
The three losses Cincinnati suffered have been by convincing margins, as all resulted in 6-1 defeats.
It has been more than three years since Rutgers’ last encounter with the Bearcats.
Seniors Jennifer Holzberg and Morgan Ivey are The only two players remaining on the team since the Knights last played Cincinnati — a 4-3 loss to the Bearcats on Feb. 15, 2009.
Holzberg and Ivey return against Cincinnati after enjoying recent individual success. Ivey collected three singles victories in the Knights’ last four matches. Holzberg coming off of victories in her last four singles matches, including her 6-1, 6-0 win in Rutgers’ home finale against the Mountaineers, which Bucca called the best match of Holzberg’s career.
“Both Jen and Morgan played great games and battled in their matches to secure victories,” Bucca said. “It was a final regular season match to go into [the tournament] for both those seniors that I’m sure they will remember for a long time.”
Rutgers cannot afford to play down to its opponent, so a fast start in doubles play is key in securing a Knights opening-round victory.
The pair of Holzberg and sophomore Vanessa Petrini leads doubles, as it currently holds a team-best 14-5 record in the No. 1 position.
Holzberg believes the recent success in doubles play is vital to the team’s success.
“We are all moving well in doubles,” she said. “We are all pumped with our play.”
If the Knights win, they face a tougher task in the second round than they did last season, when they entered the tournament as a No. 6 seed.
The Knights’ second-round opponent this season is No.1 seed Notre Dame, which secured one of the tournament’s four first-round byes with its 17-7 record and No. 17 ranking.
But the fact that his team feels loose from its recent success has Bucca confident about how it will perform.
“If you are out there competing and enjoying yourself, it’s the best way of reaching your capabilities as an athlete,” Bucca said.