July 23, 2019 | 73° F

Coach believes team MVP has greater potential

Photo by Tian Li |

Freshman Gina Li earned Most Valuable Player honors for the Knights last season. She compiled a team-best 16-5 overall record and and 9-1 conference record in singles play. Head coach Ben Bucca thinks she can get even better this year.

Being named the Most Valuable Player on any team is an exceptional honor, but receiving the award as a freshman is nearly unheard of. 

Sophomore Gina Li earned the award last season for the Rutgers tennis team. 

Li finished her rookie campaign with a 16-5 record in singles action, including a strong 9-1 singles mark in the conference at the second singles position — both team highs.

Head coach Ben Bucca has plenty of confidence in Li and believes that she can continue her success into the upcoming season. 

“Gina had a very strong singles record at the No. 2 singles position last season,” Bucca said. “I am sure she will be looking forward to building on that in her sophomore season.”

Li and the rest of the team get their next crack at the fall season next weekend when they travel to the Providence from Sept. 20-22 for the Brown Invitational.

Senior Vanessa Petrini partnered with Li at the first doubles position, where they posted an 11-7 record.

Petrini has another theory on why Li was so successful. 

“We’re all huge competitors, we’re always trying to compete harder than each other,” Petrini said. “In practice matches we’ll always try to go out there and beat each other.”

Another reason could simply be Li is not familiar with losing. 

During her four years at nearby Hillsborough (N.J.) High School, she complied a 63-11-2 record. There, she was also the 2011 Somerset County First Singles champion en route to earning first-team all-state honors. 

Last season Li dominated her competition in both singles and doubles, also teaming up with fellow sophomore Lindsey Kayati to win their one match at the second doubles spot. 

Assistant coach Hilary Ritchie thinks she knows why Li was able to come in and have such an immediate impact. 

“Gina has a very rare quality of a tennis player where she is very cool under pressure,” Ritchie said. “It’s an emotional sport and she really keeps her emotions in check so she is never out of a match. She’s had some great matches where she was down and fought through it at really key moments.”

For updates on the Rutgers tennis team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

By Louis Petrella

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