Rutgers set to host Binghamton Wednesday afternoon
The Rutgers tennis team takes on Binghamton Wednesday at a pivotal point of the Scarlet Knights' season. The Scarlet Knights (3-5) will host the Bearcats (3-8) at the East Brunswick Racquet Club.
The Knights are hoping to pull out a win after losing their last five matches while Binghamton is looking to start up a win streak after snagging a win away from Colgate this past Sunday.
Rutgers has had a lot of time to prepare for this matchup, as its last outing was Feb. 26, leaving plenty of time for rest and improvement in practice.
The Bearcats, on the other hand, are coming off a weekend where they played back to back away matches. They also have not played at home since Feb. 11.
Binghamton is a younger team. Only five members of the Binghamton team are upperclassmen. The rest of the roster is made up of freshman which could explain their recent struggles. This could work to their disadvantage as the lack of experience could spell disaster.
Part of head coach Hilary Ritchie's strategy is to allow the new players to gain experience by pairing seniors with freshman players for doubles sets. This tactic has had some success. Senior Ksenija Tihomirova and freshman Katherine Muzik were paired together in the first doubles match of the season, winning it 6-2. Also in the season opener, senior Farris Cunningham and freshman Jacqueline Cochrane won their first doubles match.
The strategy, though, has not always worked. When Cunningham and Cochrane were paired up for the Princeton matchup they lost by a score of 6-4. They also lost their match to Fordham by a score of 8-5.
The strategy makes sense pairing the more experienced upperclassmen with the inexperienced underclassmen. While it has not always spelled victory for Rutgers it can only be advantageous for the team’s inexperience.
This match against Binghamton is a telling match for the Rutgers tennis season. A win here can put them on course to get back to winning ways. Gaining momentum now is more vital than ever before, as Rutgers looks ahead at seven straight away matches, five of which are in the Big Ten. After those away matches they return home to host another two Big 10 teams including Illinois, the only team that ranks worse than Rutgers in the Big Ten, so that tilt coming up on March 25 will be pivotal.
Other matchups this month against Indiana, Ohio State and Northwestern will show the direction this season will stray toward.
Rutgers holds a roster poised to breakout. Its sets have been well contested, and a team with veteran leadership and a strong mindset can pull out a win Wednesday and reset the tone of this season.
“I think all the upperclassmen tend to step up and try to lead," junior Chloe Lee said.
This is a team whose leadership can really help turn things around — something that Binghamton should look out for. Rutgers has a chance to jump out on a run starting with Wednesday's matchup heading into Big Ten play.
“Our upperclassmen are definitely leaders on this team. Our seniors definitely demonstrate leadership in their work ethic,” Ritchie said. “I think we’re very talented and have a lot of upside.”
For updates on the Rutgers tennis team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.