Knights impress head coach at first tournament
Competing against top-level competition, the Rutgers tennis team set out to prove it belonged this weekend when it participated in the Brown Invitational.
The Scarlet Knights faced off against top teams in the region, including Boston College and Brown, which finished Nos. 4 and 7, respectively, last season in the Northeast Region final rankings. Binghamton, Boston University and Providence also competed in the tournament.
The Knights put in a strong effort and came out successful, said head coach Ben Bucca.
Sophomore Lindsay Balsamo, who won her singles draw, highlighted Rutgers’ play. She captured victories in each of her three matches in the draw and also advanced to the semifinals of her doubles draw with freshman partner Mariam Zein.
“It felt great to do well in our first tournament of the year,” Balsamo said.
Bucca found positives in the sophomore’s performance.
“Lindsay played well not only in singles, but also had a strong showing in doubles,” Bucca said. “Her results speak to her continued improvement as a tennis player, and she has every right to be very proud of her accomplishments this weekend.”
The freshman trio of Zein, Lindsey Kayati and Gina Li also played well for Rutgers in their first tournament, showing confidence and a high level of play, Bucca said.
Kayati made the finals of her draw, winning two of three singles matches in the tournament. Zein won two of her singles matches and captured a win in the consolation final.
Li rounded out the play for Rutgers, picking up three wins in doubles with sophomore partner Noor Judeh.
“The freshmen had a really strong showing,” Bucca said. “They played very well. This was something new for them, so them playing well gave them a lot of confidence by the end of the tournament that they belong playing high level Division I tennis.”
Playing against some of the top competition in the region in the first tournament of the season was difficult, but also very beneficial to the team, Bucca said.
“It gives us a really good test as to how we are doing,” Bucca said. “It gave everyone on the team a lot of confidence for us to compete the way we did against some of the better teams in the region.”
But not everything went smoothly this weekend for the Knights. Bucca said the team had a few lapses in focus, something they continue to work on.
“You can always improve no matter what,” Bucca said. “This being our first competition from the summer, it’s not unusual to have some lapses, but certainly it’s something that’s on our radar screen. I know that each and every one of the players on the team is looking to improve upon the competitive nature of how we play.”
Rutgers sees its next action Oct. 6, when it participates in the USTA Invitational in Flushing, N.Y. The Knights will begin the tournament with confidence and a desire to continue to prove they belong at the top of the region, Bucca said.
“The biggest thing the team took from the tournament is that we’re talented, and we have a number of great players on the team,” Bucca said. “We have set a tradition of being one of the top teams in the region, and even though we have a young team, we saw firsthand that we have the capabilities to continue this tradition of strong play. It was a really big confidence booster for everyone on the team.”
The strong showing has the team even more driven and focused in preparation for its next tournament, Balsamo said.
“Doing well has left the team eager to compete in two weeks at our tournament in Flushing Meadows,” she said.