June 24, 2019 | 72° F

Texas native headlines new freshman class for Rutgers

The Rutgers tennis team brought in its best recruiting class in team history this year. The class, which consists of three players, ranked 28th in the nation — the highest ranking in team history, according to Tennis Recruiting Network.

Mariam Zein is one of those players. The freshman from Sugarland, Texas, was the Class 5A girls singles state champion for Dulles High School. She was a five-star prospect and ranked 73rd nationally, according to Tennis Recruiting Network.

The Scarlet Knights have a history of pulling recruits from the Lone Star State for tennis.

“We’ve had a very strong tradition of attracting players to the team from Texas,” said head coach Ben Bucca, “so Mariam just continues that long line of tradition of having some very fine tennis players coming to Rutgers from Texas.”

Zein crossed paths with Bucca while attending a tournament in 2011, an encounter that prompted her interest in Rutgers.

“I met Coach Bucca at a tournament the summer before my senior year, and I talked to him and liked his ideas of coaching and his coaching style,” Zein said. “We started talking back and forth, and he invited me for an official visit. I came on my official visit in September and really loved the school.”

Several elements of the school stuck out and appealed to Zein.

“I really liked the girls on the team,” Zein said. “They were one of the main reasons I came because of the team atmosphere. Also, the academics are really good.”    

Adjusting to a new culture has not been too difficult for Zein, who claims there are only a few small things she had to get used to.

“Everything is so much more fast-paced up here,” Zein said. “The environment is different, too, from the way the houses are to the way people speak. It’s not too different, though. I’m not having culture shock or anything. It’s definitely a nice change from being in southern Texas.”

Zein got her first taste of college tennis action Sept. 12, when the Knights scrimmaged NJIT, an experience she believes went well.

“I was a little nervous going into it, because college tennis is so much different from junior tennis in the sense that you’re playing for a team and the competition is higher,” she said. “I just tried to stay calm and focused and had a couple key things I wanted to focus on doing — and I think I was successful.”

Zein and her teammates compete in their first tournament of the season this weekend, something Zein is both anxious and excited for.

“I’m pretty nervous because we’re going against a bunch of schools, and it’s an away game, so it’s a combination of factors,” she said. “I’m totally ready to play with my team and I’ve been practicing hard, so hopefully I’ll get some good results.”

Bucca also believes she is ready. He said he is confident the freshman will have a good first tournament and successful career.

“Her style of play is well-suited for college tennis,” Bucca said, “and her future is very promising.”

By Mike Morton

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