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Junior All-Big East selection Amy Zhang, above, and the Rutgers tennis team benefit this season with the additions of freshmen Stefania Balasa, below, and Vanessa Petrini, who won all their matches in a season-opening scrimmage against Long Island.
The Rutgers tennis team put together a strong showing over the weekend at the prestigious Brown Invitational Tournament in Providence, R.I.
Junior Maryana Milchutsky was one of three Knights to contribute a pair of singles victories to Rutgers 14 total wins.
Junior Amy Zhang finished the spring season with a 17-5 record as the Knights' No. 1 singles player, leading the team to a 14-8 record with a second-round Big'East Tournament exit.
A 4-0 loss to South Florida in the Big East tournament closed the curtain on the Rutgers tennis team's 2010 season. The Scarlet Knights were bulled over on Friday in the second round of the tourney in South Bend, Ind., as a predominately successful spring reached a disappointing conclusion. The Knights finish the year with a record of 14-8. But unlike last season, the team failed to advance beyond the second day of the tournament and must settle for a one-win postseason. That victory came on Thursday, when Rutgers pounded Pittsburgh 4-0 in round one. Less than a month removed from a 7-0 defeat in Piscataway, the Panthers were once again dismantled at the hands of the Knights. However, the thrill of yet another pummeling of Pittsburgh was short-lived. Just 24 hours after the win, Rutgers was again involved in a shutout match — though this time, it was on the wrong end of the equation. The talented No. 24 South Florida squad was able to stay ahead of the Knights throughout the contest and cruised to a conference win. Rutgers assistant coach Alex Arlak feels her team had a shot at earning a victory before USF shifted into high gear. "We competed well against South Florida," Arlak said. "They were definitely vulnerable in some places and we came close to using that to our advantage. But they are a very talented team and were able to take it to us in the end." Friday's defeat is the latest in a series of losses against ranked opponents. Rutgers has never beaten a nationally ranked team and the Bulls made sure that trend continued. "It was a disappointment to lose in the second round," Arlak said. "We have trouble getting over that hump and beating teams that are highly ranked. It's something that this program needs to work on and it's important if we want to keep moving forward." Sophomore singles player Jen Holzberg echoed her coach's sentiments when looking back on the match. "Part of it is frustrating because you always want to finally beat a top ranked team," Holzberg said. "But it also motivates us to work hard so that we can do it next year." "I feel like we did have a very good chance of beating South Florida. I know they were ranked very highly but we were neck and neck with them most of the way. The match was a lot closer than the score shows and we can take some positives out of it." Despite the lopsided decision, Rutgers saw some highly contentious matches against USF. Holzberg took USF's Melissa Koning to a first-set tiebreaker before losing in the No. 2 singles slot, while junior ace Amy Zhang and senior Katherine Arlak each fought hard through tough defeats. Arlak, a team captain who played her final match in scarlet on Friday, said her last Big East tournament was bittersweet. "I think we did play pretty well," she said. "We beat Pitt the way we expected to and we were definitely happy about that. Unfortunately, we lost to a good USF team and that was frustrating. We would have liked to move on to the next round but it didn't happen." The Bulls' win would be the last of their season. USF was beaten 4-0 on Saturday by DePaul, who squared off with tournament host No.5 Notre Dame yesterday in the conference championship. The Irish pummeled the Blue Demons 4-0 to win the Big East crown in front of their home crowd.
Katherine Arlak lost in the Knights' Big East Tournament exit-loss to South Florida, marking her final collegiate contest.
Sophomore Jen Holzberg is tied with classmates Leonora Slatnick and Maryana Milchutskey for second on the team with 13 wins in singles play this spring.
Sophomore Maryana Milchutskey has a 13-4 record in singles play during the spring season, with an 8-2 mark in the Big East.
Sophomore Jen Holzberg swept her singles match 6-1, 6-0 and paired with junior Amy Zhang to win her doubles' match 8-4.
The Rutgers tennis team got back on track yesterday afternoon with a 5-2 victory over Big East adversary St. John's. The win allows Rutgers to put last weekend's disappointing matches in the rear-view mirror as it closes out the regular season. Playing in front of a solid crowd, the Scarlet Knights reversed their Big East fortunes and strengthened their case for a quality seed in the conference's postseason tournament. The team was well aware of the importance of yesterday's contest, said sophomore Morgan Ivey. "St. John's has given us trouble in the past," Ivey said. "It was really crucial for us to win in the Big East and go into the tournament with a strong record." Saturday's home match against West Virginia is the Knight's regular season finale. The team's tussle with the Johnnies was crucial for its tourney resume. Hoping to lock up a top six seed in the field of 12, Rutgers needed to play sharp throughout the match. St. John's was no lightweight and did not go away quietly into the night. Many of the Knights' singles players were saddled with tough, lengthy matches. Add the fact that it was unseasonably warm, and the makings of a physically draining afternoon are born. Team ace junior Amy Zhang fell behind early before regaining her momentum and earning another victory. Sophomore Leonora Slatnick fell victim to a heart-wrenching loss that lasted well after her teammates finished playing. Slatnick's loss means the Texan's ten match unbeaten streak is history. However, she believes the defeat will not have lasting effects for her or the team. "I'm just going to keep taking it one match at a time," Slatnick said. "You've got to move on whether you win or lose. Now that we're at the end of the season, I think we're ready for the Big East tournament. That's what we play for. We've been playing pretty well and there's not much more we can do to prepare. " Sophomore Maryana Milchutskey, the Knights' No. 4 singles player, feels that success in the Big East is vital. "We started off pretty bad losing 7-0 to Syracuse," she said. "But after that we realized that every Big East match is really important and we've been playing really well. Hopefully we can continue to do that." Milchutskey earned a win against the Red Storm and is one of the Knights' most consistent players this season. Her play could be an X-factor for Rutgers in the tournament if she continues to flourish in the fourth spot. "I bring a focus to every match and try to play hard," Milchutskey said. "I guess I've been lucky too and winning." Rutgers is approaching the finish line of the 2010 season that began nearly three months ago. The Knights played in 19 matches over that time. They fought hard to win 12 of those and Ivey believes the team has more fight in it despite the growing fatigue that comes with a long season. "I think the season has taken a toll on us physically and mentally, but I think it makes us stronger to stick together through the end."
Sophomore Leonora Slatnick snapped her 10-match unbeaten streak in a loss to St. John's. The Austin, Texas native had not lost since February, but the Knights still topped St. John's 5-2.
Last weekend the Rutgers tennis team faced defeat at the hands of Big East foes Marquette and No. 26 DePaul. The Scarlet Knights have the opportunity to pick themselves back up when they host St. John's today in a 2 p.m. match.Rutgers (11-7, 5-3) could do no wrong for the better part of March and April, but the Knights were outscored by a total of 12-2 in back-to-back matches in Milwaukee over the weekend.
Junior Amy Zhang is 14-4 as the Knights' No. 1 singles player this season and 6-2 in conference entering the team's final two matches with St. John's and West Virginia at the RU'Tennis Complex.
Senior captain Katherine Arlak is one of three seniors for the Knights and pairs with classmate Christine Tran in doubles play.
Sophomore Leonora Slatnick maintained her 10-match winning streak through the Wisconsin trip because of a quad strain.
Not even junior Amy Zhang garnered a win against DePaul over the weekend, as Rutgers took its second shutout of the season.
Crunch time is here in full force for the Rutgers tennis team, as it faces the toughest portion of its 2010 season this weekend. The Scarlet Knights journey to Milwaukee, Wis., to take on Marquette and Big East beast DePaul in a series of make-or-break matches. Rutgers (11-5, 5-1) caught fire over the past month and a half, winning eight of its last 10 matches and creeping to the edge of the conference's upper echelon. The Knights reeled off five straight Big East wins — the most recent two on the road. Despite all the success thus far, the squad faces its moment of truth this weekend. Think of the two matches as the Knights' opportunity to claim the title of "contender" or "pretender." The easiest matches of the team's schedule are behind them and if Rutgers wants to continue moving forward it will have to go through some formidable foes. Judgment day comes Saturday, when the Knights go face-to-face with No. 21 DePaul. The Blue Demons (13-3, 4-1) present the biggest challenge the Knights faced all year. Rutgers has never beaten a nationally ranked team and head coach Ben Bucca knows it. His players know it. Quite frankly, Saturday's match is one of the program's most pivotal contests in years. Senior captain Katherine Arlak feels her team is well-equipped to handle the pressure. "DePaul is a ranked team and we know they're going to be tough," Arlak said. "I don't think we're nervous though. We know we're not expected to win the match, but if we go in there and play the best we can and play hard, we can beat them." Sophomore Jen Holzberg, the team's No. 2 singles player, is just as confident as her captain that the Knights will play up to the task. "I think we're ready for this," Holzberg said. "We've practiced hard and we've beaten all the teams that we should have. We're on the right track to finally beating a ranked opponent." Should Rutgers knock off mighty DePaul, junior ace Amy Zhang believes it would change the culture of the University's tennis program. "It would mean a lot to beat DePaul," Zhang said. "This team has really improved since my freshman year. We're at the point now where we could just level off or continue to get better." "We're so close to becoming a ranked team and it's time for us to get over that hump. It's not about talent on this team, it's about believing in our own abilities." Those abilities have not let the Knights down very often this season.
Wondering which Rutgers sports program will be the next to bring a Big East title to the Banks? The Rutgers' tennis team is looking more and more like a viable candidate to do so with every win it collects. The Scarlet Knights brushed aside intrastate rival Seton Hall 6-1 yesterday in South Orange, earning Rutgers its fifth consecutive conference victory. The Knights (11-5, 5-1) are 8-2 since Feb. 25 and now stand firmly among the conference's hottest teams. Rutgers entered the road contest knowing it was the heavy favorite — and they certainly played like one. The Knights dominated throughout the afternoon as they pounded the Pirates early and often. Seton Hall (5-9,0-4) could not keep up with Rutgers from the start. The Knights rolled through doubles play with little challenge. Sophomore Jen Holzberg, who teamed up with junior Amy Zhang for their sixth-straight win as a pair, believes her team set the tone early. "We knew that we could win this match," Holzberg said. "Coming out strong and proving ourselves right away was important and that got us going." The Knights success in pairs carried over into singles play, where Zhang laid the hammer down by double-bagling her opponent 6-0, 6-0. But Rutgers' No. 1 player was not the only one to dominate. Holzberg cruised to her eleventh win of the season with a 6-1, 6-3 decision, while sophomore Maryana Milchutskey (6-1, 6-4) and senior Caitlin Baker (6-1, 6-0) also eased their way to victory. Sophomore Leonora Slatnick refused to lose once more, earning a 6-3, 6-2 win. The Austin, Tx. product has not lost since February and has been an X-factor for the Knights. "She's improved a lot and just keeps getting better," Holzberg said. "We're very confident when Leo's playing in a match because of her how she's been doing." Teammates should believe in Slatnick. The Knights have been at their best during her streak, which has seemingly helped jump-start the group. Slatnick said she is not the only member of the team inspiring others. "It helps when you watch your teammates and see them doing well," she said. "At one point during the match I looked over at Jen [Holzberg] and saw she was playing great — that definitely motivated me." Head coach Ben Bucca's squad is firmly positioning itself for a high seed in the Big East postseason tournament — which begins April 22 in South Bend, Ind. The Knights' sixth win on the road provides another example of the team's mental fortitude according to captain Caitlin Baker, who picked up a victory in doubles play. "We've matured a lot as players this season when it comes to mentally preparing for matches," Baker said, "Our mental toughness is what keeps us going. Every single one of us can find a way to grind out a win, even if it's ugly." Now that the Knights have shredded through much of the conference, they face a tough task in the last two road matches of the season.
Junior Amy Zhang beat her No. 1 singles opponent 6-0, 6-0 and earned her sixth-straight win in doubles with Jen Holzberg.