Rutgers kicks off fall season against NJIT
The Rutgers tennis team saw its first action of the season yesterday, when it took on NJIT in a scrimmage at the Rutgers Tennis Complex.
There was no official winner and no score because it was an exhibition, but head coach Ben Bucca said the Scarlet Knights put out an impressive performance.
“We played well,” Bucca said. “You can practice all you want, but there’s nothing like competition. I thought we had a good day of playing strong tennis against a really strong team.”
Junior Vanessa Petrini highlighted the Knights’ play. Petrini narrowly defeated NJIT’s Ksenia Kuzmenko in first singles in straight sets, despite some close calls. Petrini also cruised to victory in doubles, coupled with freshman partner Lindsey Kayati.
“I take every match seriously,” Petrini said. “Being one of the oldest on the team, I want to make sure the freshmen see that, sophomores see that. Scrimmage or no scrimmage, I just take every match seriously and try to win.”
Kayati and fellow freshmen Gina Li and Mariam Zein all experienced their first college match and also played very well, Bucca said.
“They looked good,” he said. “But they’re experienced players. All three freshmen have had wide experience between playing high school tennis and playing on the junior national tournament scene. It’s just a matter of them competing on a college level and getting comfortable that they belong and clearly from their level of play, they belong.”
Zein highlighted the freshmen, cruising to victory in her singles match. She was also successful in doubles, Bucca said.
“I was definitely nervous, but as you get into the match, the nerves go away and you get into a rhythm of how you play,” Zein said. “I felt good and solid out there.”
But not everything went smoothly for Rutgers. Bucca said doubles play needs work, and that is nothing out of the ordinary for a team this early in the season.
“Most of these players, by the time they get to college, they already know how to play singles and they play it really well,” Bucca said. “Doubles has a lot of strategies they can learn, so [in] doubles we’re on a learning curve.”
The scrimmage featured 10 matches — six singles and four doubles. Each match was two sets, with a tiebreaker at the end if needed.
But the match served as a learning experience for the Knights, giving them valuable experience before Sept. 21, when their tournament schedule begins.
“Considering it was the first match and everyone was probably nervous,” Petrini said, “it was good we got out here and competed and got back in match mode.”