Rutger splits weekend with Saturday loss

It is difficult to shut out an opponent in any sport, but to win three straight tennis matches without letting up a single victory is something to be admired.

The Rutgers tennis team saw its shutout streak end at three as it fell to Columbia, 4-3, on Saturday — a day after extending it against Farleigh Dickinson — in the team's most closely contested match of the young season.

The match was a much different affair, as nothing came easy for the Scarlet Knights (3-2) against the undefeated Columbia squad. Rutgers was able to split the singles matches with Columbia, but lost the pivotal doubles points to come up just short.

None of Rutgers' doubles teams were able to register a win against Columbia, putting the Knights down early in the contest.

Senior captain Amy Zhang and junior Jennifer Holzberg put up a fight and lost, 8-5, but the teams of juniors Morgan Ivey and Leonora Slatnick, and freshmen Stefania Balasa and Vanessa Petrini could not build upon their effort.

The singles matches were much more heated, and most of them needed extra play to settle at least one set. Zhang took the loss in Rutgers' top spot at 6-2, 7-6, but Holzberg was able to get the Knights on the board with a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 2.

"The match was tough, but I just stayed focused the entire time," Holzberg said. "I never gave up, even when I was down, or thought too far into the future of the match."

Columbia sealed the match by defeating Ivey and fellow junior Maryana Milchutskey in the Nos. 3 and 4 slots, but Balasa and Petrini showed heart coming through with wins at the bottom of the lineup.

Balasa's win was her fourth in a row, with her only loss coming in the opener against Princeton. Petrini earned her fifth-straight victory — a nail-biter that lasted three sets — to remain undefeated in her collegiate career.

Rutgers' only losses this season came against the Ivy League, but there are no more Ivy League schools remaining on the Knights' schedule.

The Knights earned their third consecutive sweep on Friday, when they defeated Fairleigh Dickinson, 7-0, in the first home match of the season at the Atlantic Club in Manasquan, N.J.

The Knights took every match against Fairleigh Dickinson and were victorious in every set of singles action. Rutgers dominated the top two slots, as Zhang lost only two games in her match at 6-2, 6-0, and Holzberg recorded a decisive win at 6-1, 6-2.

Ivey and Milchutskey took care of business in the middle of the lineup with each recording wins, while Balasa and Petrini added victories from the Nos. 5 and 6 slots.

Petrini extended her personal win streak to four matches by defeating Emily Napier of Fairleigh Dickinson, 6-1, 6-0.

"We are playing strong, confident tennis," said head coach Ben Bucca. "We were pleasantly surprised with the decisive nature of this victory, as Fairleigh Dickinson will clearly be competing for their conference championship to get into the NCAA Tournament."

The doubles teams were also flawless for the Knights, as the pairs of Zhang and Holzberg, as well as Balasa and Petrini both earned relatively easy victories to seal the Knights' sweep.

The tandem of Ivey and Slatnick did not finish their match, but it was not needed with the victory already in hand.

"I thought the match was going to be closer than it was, but down the line, everyone won convincingly," Holzberg said. "Each match showed how strong our team is this year."