Knights split weekend entering only match on campus

The Rutgers tennis team shut out Villanova, 7-0, on Sunday, marking the Scarlet Knights' eighth sweep of the season, but it was more impressive considering they were less than 24 hours removed from losing to Georgetown for the first time since 2000.

"We didn't really get over the loss, but we put it in the back of our minds," said junior Jennifer Holzberg. "We couldn't let it keep us down. We just pushed through it and improved upon what we could. We were still upset, but we refocused, got back to playing the way we usually play."

The Knights (14-5, 6-3) learned that all good things must come to an end the hard way this weekend, when the Hoyas snapped their eight-match win streak with a 4-3 win on Saturday in Washington, D.C.

"On that day Georgetown was the better team. They played strong consistent tennis," said head coach Ben Bucca. "We were disappointed because we were really focused on running the table to ensure our best possible seed at the Big East Tournament.

The Knights dropped the doubles point to Georgetown, something they did in each of their losses this season. Holzberg and senior captain Amy Zhang lost in the No.1 spot, 8-3, as did junior Leonora Slatnick and freshman Vanessa Petrini, 8-2, in the No. 2 position.

"I don't know if it's something we did wrong," Holzberg said. "Teams are gunning to beat us. No one thinks of us as a rollover team. [Georgetown] played really well — they played hard and aggressive tennis. We did all we could."

Petrini rebounded to win her singles match in the No. 6 spot for one of the three Knights singles victories. The other two wins came from junior Morgan Ivey and freshman Stefania Balasa, who also teamed up to win in the No. 3 doubles slot.

"Vanessa and Stef are consistently winning," Holzberg said. "It has gotten to the point that we can almost depend on them to bring home a win for us in these close matches."

Ivey, Balasa and Petrini each notched their second singles win of the weekend in the sweep of Villanova. The Knights overpowered the Wildcats and the closest contests were Zhang's 6-2, 6-3 singles win and an 8-3 doubles win by Slatnick and Petrini.

The Knights do not have time to dwell on either the Georgetown loss or the Villanova win as they return to action tomorrow in their season finale against Connecticut.

It will be the first match the Knights play on the Rutgers campus this season, and Zhang will be honored with a Senior Day ceremony.

"Amy had a career at Rutgers that can only be described as outstanding," Bucca said. "She was All-Big East for the past two years and hopefully this year will make three. She was named Big East Scholar Athlete for tennis and won many other awards. Couple that with a GPA over 3.9, and she is really the model of a consistent, outstanding, accomplished athlete. And we're all hoping she can extend her career home record to 29-0 on Wednesday."

The Knights are determined to play their final game on campus despite an increasingly gloomy weather forecast. If the weather does not cooperate, the match will move to Tuesday, April 19, to ensure Zhang's career does not need to end off campus.

"It's really important to all of us that we finally get to have a match on campus," Holzberg said. "It's Amy's last match and she wants to go out with all of her friends coming to watch. The whole team will be pumped to come out and play for her on Wednesday."

The Huskies enter the match riding a three-game losing streak, most recently losing to West Virginia, 5-2, last Sunday in Storrs, Conn.

The result against UConn will determine the Knights' seed in the Big East Tournament on April 28, in South Bend, Ind., after their 15-day break between matches.