Rutgers drops pair of Big Ten matches in Michigan
Participating in its first of four straight road contests, the Rutgers women’s tennis team fell to No. 11 Michigan, 7-0, Saturday afternoon at the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Scarlet Knights dropped the doubles point and were unsuccessful in singles action as the Wolverines continued their multi-year streak and captured their 34th straight conference win.
After the weekend, the Knights slipped to 6-13 on the season and 0-9 in Big Ten play, while Michigan improved to 15-4 and 7-0 in conference.
In singles, senior Mariam Zein pushed her No. 4 singles match to a third set against Michigan’s Mira Ruder-Hook.
Zein was triumphant in the first set, securing a decisive 6-3 advantage over Ruder-Hook in the opening stanza, but Ruder-Hook would bounce back with 6-2 and 1-0 (3) wins to take the match.
“Michigan is an incredibly talented bunch and extremely tough to battle with,” said head coach Benjamin Bucca. “The match got tighter as it wore on, but ultimately they were too much for us to handle.”
Not only are the Wolverines one of the premier squads in the nation this year, they have won six straight Big Ten Championships and are currently primed to contend for another.
After battling a superior opponent, Rutgers had zero time to recover, as the Knights traveled the same day to East Lansing, Michigan, to face Michigan State on Sunday.
Despite wins in singles from senior Gina Li and sophomore Chloe Lee, Rutgers was defeated by the Spartans, 5-2.
The Knights managed to bring three singles matches into the third and deciding round, while Li recorded a straight-set victory against Erin Faulkner in the No. 1 position.
However, the green and white were able to close out matches down the stretch to secure the dual victory.
Michigan State increased its spring win total to 10 compared to nine losses and now possesses a 2-5 mark in conference.
“We felt like we could compete effectively and come up with a victory going into East Lansing,” Bucca said. “Collectively, we were really disappointed not necessarily with our performance, but more with the final result.”
On the bright side, Li produced a convincing 6-3 decision in the first set against Faulkner, and edged out a close second set by a 7-6 margin for the victory.
The win was Li’s fourth in conference play, as the veteran has now won 6 of her last 8 matches.
The younger yet equally as determined Lee picked up her second conference triumph this season, bagging the first set against Michigan State’s Lexi Baylis, 6-2.
Baylis fought back for a win in the second set, 3-6, but Lee kept Baylis in check with a 6-2 third-set victory for the singles win.
“Li and Lee have been playing really strong tennis and I’m very proud of their efforts,” Bucca said. “As a whole, it was a great match.”
In doubles, Michigan State added wins in the No. 1 and No. 3 positions for the point.
Faulkner and Allie Baer downed Li and Zein, 7-5, while Baylis and Athena Trouillot won over senior Lindsey Kayati and junior Farris Cunningham, 6-2.
After a disappointing weekend in the Great Lakes State, the Knights are still searching for their first Big Ten win and only have two more opportunities before the school year comes to a close.
Rutgers is set to finish off the regular season with two conference road matches, as the Knights will journey to the Midwest to compete at Wisconsin on April 22 and Minnesota on April 24.
“We’ve got a great plan for the upcoming practice schedule that includes some important rest, but also an emphasis on strategy,” Bucca said. “Our staff is challenging the team to show spirit and energy all the way through our final weekend and hopefully we can play up to our potential to close the season.”
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