Rutgers enters regional tournament after invite play
The Rutgers tennis team has seen its share of formidable adversaries throughout the fall season.
Whether it was from the two scrimmages against NJIT and ASA College or from the invitational at Brown and at Yale, the Scarlet Knights have been tested and are now ready to tackle the ultimate challenge — the ITA Northeast Regional Tournament.
The annual showdown for the upper echelon programs in the Northeast during the fall is an opportunity many teams use to get a glimpse of what will come in the spring.
But more importantly, the aforementioned entrants are vying to compete at an optimal level to win as many singles and doubles matches as possible, including Rutgers.
Junior Gina Li took into account the rigorous level of competition in store for the team beginning Friday at Yale.
“Regionals is always a tough tournament with all of the best players in the Northeast region,” she said. “There is definitely going to be a lot of tough competition, but I think that with all of our fall training, we are ready to do well at Regionals.”
Rutgers will field five of its seven-member roster for singles play, including freshman Chloe Lee, senior Lindsay Balsamo and juniors Lindsey Kayati, Mariam Zein and Li.
Of those five, Li was seeded in the tourney.
As for doubles, Li and Zein, as well as the team of Lee and Balsamo, will represent Rutgers, with the former earning the honor of having a seed.
Head coach Ben Bucca is confident the Knights who qualified will perform to the best of their ability.
“The quality of play was very high,” he said. “Some of the players played their best tennis since being at Rutgers. Everyone was really energetic and played really well.”
If the players continue playing their best and are motivated to give it all they have, it could spell bad news for the opposition.
In addition, the mantra and the calling card throughout this fall — establishing and maintaining a competitive spirit — must continue to be a message everyone buys into.
As sophomore Farris Cunningham realized, the message was reflected in the difference in how the team fared at Yale.
“We were in a much more team competitive spirit at this tournament compared to Brown,” she said. “The schedule enabled us all to play together at the same time so we could cheer for each other and support each other as we played. The spirit of our team enabled us to focus on each match and bring our best tennis to each opponent.”
Rutgers’ belief in its skills and its overall ability seems to be higher now than it had been at any other point during the season because of the past weekend.
With that in mind, Bucca will do what he feels is necessary for the team to keep up the level of effort and effective play.
“We’re going to lighten things up so when we go back to Yale, we’re fully rested,” he said.
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