Muzik, Fisher reach semi-finals at ITA Regional Championships for Rutgers
The Rutgers tennis team pulled off its best performance of the fall season at the ITA Northeast Regional Championships in New Haven, Conn. this past weekend.
Junior Kat Muzik and freshman Tess Fisher rallied to a semifinals match in doubles play, while sophomore Maya Jacobs fought her way to the round of 16 in singles action.
The Scarlet Knights went in as the underdogs and turned many heads, coming out of doubles action with the only unseeded duo that competed in the semifinals. Fisher and Muzik eliminated No. 3 seed Brown in a gritty quarterfinals performance (8-7), but couldn’t quite pull out a win against Syracuse’s Sofya Golubovskaya and Sofya Treshcheva (6-4, 7-6) in the semifinals.
The last Rutgers duo to make it to the final four were alumnae Mariam Zein and Gina Li at the 2014 ITA Regionals.
"It felt really good to represent Rutgers in the doubles semifinals, especially being the only unseeded team left," Muzik said, according to scarletknights.com. "Everybody this weekend had one of our best overall results in singles and doubles. It was a good weekend and we are going to try and continue this into our final tournament of the fall at Buffalo."
Out of approximately 100 qualified athletes at regionals in the singles main draw, Jacobs was 1 of 2 unseeded players that made it all the way to the round of 16 in singles play.
Not only did Jacobs play an extra match to add her name into the main draw, but she was able to defeat top tier opponents from Fordham and the Orange before falling to No. 17 seed Caroline Dunleavy from Yale, who was competing on her home court.
Jacobs lost the first set 6-1, but came back strong for a 6-0 second set, ultimately tiring out to a 6-0 loss in the final set.
“We're just seeing the whole team play with more confidence, and they're competing the way that they know how to play,” said head coach Hilary Ritchie. “Typically a lot of times what would happen is we'd have a game plan, but we'd back off in the big moments and not be so aggressive. But we just noticed the whole team playing at a higher level overall.”
Also representing the Knights in the doubles quarterfinals were junior Jaci Cochrane and freshman Kristiana Zahare. The pair were unable to seal the deal in a close 8-7 loss to Boston University’s Shelly Yaloz and Emily Kim.
In comparison to last year’s regionals performance, Rutgers is looking at the program’s best regional performance to date. The team only had athletes make it to the round of 64 in 2017, which seems mediocre to the team’s dominant run at this year’s regionals.
“I think it's just a great trend and it shows where we're going and how we're working hard and hopefully translates into our conference play,” Ritchie said.
To put the ITA Northeast Regional into perspective, there are approximately 350 Division I players across 40 teams in arguably the largest tennis region in the nation.
To have five Knights make it into the singles main draw and also five players advance to the round of 16, one in singles and two pairs in doubles, asserts Rutgers as one of the top teams in the country.
“They've been working exceptionally hard in terms of additional fitness, and I think they're really understanding that hard work can translate into confidence,” Ritchie said. “You don't just need wins and success in competition to get confidence. You can get it through hard work in practice and just being really diligent about the way you practice.”
Looking ahead, the Knights still have one more fall invite in Buffalo on Oct. 26-28 before they get a 3-month training block until spring competition. After this past weekend, Rutgers is hoping its growing confidence carries over into the conference season.
Ritchie doesn’t see the Knights as underdogs in the Big Ten, but as aggressive competitors that are going to transform the way the rest of the conference views them.
“Well, I think all the teams know that we come to compete,” Ritchie said. “But I think now, they'll look at (the Knights’ regional performance) as 'Wow, Rutgers is hungry,' and I don't think you can overlook us.”
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