Rutgers ends fall schedule with strong showing at Buffalo Invite
Continuing its momentum from ITA Regionals, the Rutgers tennis team shined at the Buffalo invitational this past weekend in Buffalo, N.Y. The Scarlet Knights outplayed the hosting Bulls and UConn to close out their fall season with a great amount of confidence heading into the conference season in the spring.
Sophomore Maya Jacobs left Buffalo untouched with singles and doubles wins against the Bulls and the Huskies. Junior Jaci Cochrane and Jacobs defeated UConn (6-4) before throwing down a gritty win against Buffalo (7-6), (4-0).
"I think that the results from this weekend are telling of all the hard work that we've put in this fall," Jacobs said to scarletknights.com. "In my singles match, I lost the first set, but because we've been working so hard and pushing ourselves further, I was able to stick it out and compete really hard to get the win. Our team has made great strides and improvements this year in competitions and we will continue this trend into the spring."
Also capturing both her singles matches over the weekend was freshman Kristiana Zahare, who grazed past the Huskies (5-7, 6-2, 10-6), followed by a dominant win over the Bulls (6-2, 6-2).
Looking at the hidden dual against UConn, Rutgers won four singles matches (4-3) and 2 of 3 doubles competitions on Saturday. The following day, the Knights added another four singles and two doubles wins against Buffalo.
Last year, Rutgers lost to both UConn and Buffalo, but were able to win the hard-fought battle this time around.
“Obviously we were disappointed that one of the three teams pulled out, but in lieu of that, we decided to play out three sets,” said head coach Hilary Ritchie. “The team just competed hard, so whether people won the first set or lost the first set, everyone was fighting in their matches until the end. I think that was really positive to see.”
Overall, the Knights racked up winning percentages of .629 in singles action and .613 in doubles play.
Jacobs and freshman Sydney Kaplan were both able to log eight singles wins, with junior Kat Muzik close behind recording seven wins.
On the doubles side, Muzik and freshman Tess Fisher posted a dominant 9-3 fall record with many of their wins coming from their semifinals placing at regionals.
“We had a tremendous fall,” Ritchie said. “I was very pleased with the results, so we got teams that maybe we hadn't done as well even in individual tournaments, teams that maybe we have lost to. We were able to capture some wins individually and even these over the last weekend. We're just very positive and I think the ladies are feeling a lot of confidence after the fall, so I think overall we had a successful season.”
In comparison to this time last year, Rutgers finished at .429 in singles and .394 in doubles. Cochrane registered a 9-5 record during that season, while Jacobs and Muzik held a 4-3 record in doubles action.
The tremendous growth of not one, but all of the players shows the Knights’ call to action in the spring. More work still needs to be done before Rutgers can start to defeat some of its conference rivals.
“The offseason's always so tricky because you have to scale it back, but everybody is on a high for such a successful season, so you don't want to lose that momentum and positivity,” Ritchie said. “We'll be focusing still on a lot of group things and our aggressive plays, but still continue to focus on the basic things, right? Really good serving, good returning and playing aggressively.”
The Knights are hungry and have yet to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament since joining the conference, but they are hoping their successful fall carries over to secure their place come April 2019.
“I hope they were able to take away (from the fall) that really hard work pays off,” Ritchie said. “I think the intensity in practice and in the weight room and the additional conditioning we've done this fall has really translated into some wins and I hope that they see that and they're able to continue their intensity and appreciate that hard work will build our confidence, as well.”
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