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Zhang aces classes, opponents

<p>Senior Polina Zaretser and the Rutgers tennis team finished
fourth in the Big East tournament this weekend, the highest end
result in the Scarlet Knights' history.</p>

Senior Polina Zaretser and the Rutgers tennis team finished fourth in the Big East tournament this weekend, the highest end result in the Scarlet Knights' history.

Despite a stellar freshman season, Rutgers women's tennis ace Amy Zhang sees room for improvement. In leading the Scarlet Knights to a 4-3 start (1-2 Big East), the sophomore has worked hard at improving her doubles game and leadership skills.

Rutgers head coach Ben Bucca has seen Zhang's diligence pay off.

"Amy's made terrific improvement," Bucca said. "She's more of a presence on the team and is clearly showing herself as being a determined athlete."

At 5-2 in singles play thus far this season, Zhang is only one loss away from equaling her total from all of last season. Zhang, however, said her confidence has only increased and added that she is now more adept at handling pressure.

"My season last year gave me confidence that if I play my best tennis, I know that I will have a good match," she said.

Zhang delivered immediate results after coming into Rutgers as the first five-star recruit in the program's history. Zhang posted a 21-3 record in singles matches last season along with a 16-8 mark in doubles play. In the fall, Zhang advanced to the fourth round of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's East Region Championships. Zhang said the experience helped her gain confidence.

"I felt like I played really well and got a sense of the other top players in the Big East," she said. "It gave me an idea of the level of tennis I need to be able to play week in and week out."

Zhang has complimented her success on the court with high marks in the classroom. In addition to earning an athletic scholarship, she was a recipient of a Presidential scholarship, the most prestigious award that Rutgers grants to incoming undergraduates.

Zhang's teammates have followed suit. By compiling a team GPA of better than 3.4, the Knights received All-Academic honors for the 2008 season from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. The team hopes to build off that success in 2009.

"This year our goal is to have a team Dean's List," Zhang said.

Zhang and Bucca have been pleased with the Knights' performance against a challenging early season slate. Bucca said he was encouraged by the team's reaction to a hard-fought loss against a nationally ranked Marquette squad.

"[It was] not seen as we played well but we lost, but as that we should be competing at the highest level of college tennis," Bucca said.

Bucca views the team's disappointment at losing as a positive sign that they have the desire to be among the best in the conference.

Zhang is also optimistic about the future of Rutgers women's tennis.

"I know our team has a lot of potential," Zhang said. "It just takes a little bit more to get to where we want to go."

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