Break provides experience for Knights

While the Rutgers tennis team’s three-game spring break road trip brought its record back to .500, the Scarlet Knights have an opportunity today to regain their winning record when they square off against Villanova.

Not only do the Wildcats serve as Rutgers’ first competition since spring break, but it is also the first time the Knights (6-6) compete at the Rutgers Tennis Complex, which is outdoors.

In the early portion of its spring season, Rutgers held its home matches 50 minutes away from campus indoors at the Atlantic Club in Manasquan, N.J.

Its three matches during break were all on outside courts, where the ball travels faster and wind comes into play. So it was important for the Knights to get action outside.

“Playing tennis outside is much different than playing tennis indoors,” said head coach Ben Bucca. “It’s important to acclimate to the outdoor game, and there is no better way than going on a spring break trip. The trip served its purpose, and we are ready to play outside and play well.”

In those matches, Rutgers went 1-2, losing to both College of Charleston and Charleston Southern while capturing a 5-2 victory against Boston University.

Despite the losses, doubles play was effective. Senior Jennifer Holzberg and sophomore Vanessa Petrini combined for two doubles match victories, and the team swept all three doubles matches in its win against the Terriers.

 Petrini and Holzberg’s recent success is essential in the No. 1 doubles position as the team enters the Big East portion of its schedule.

“First doubles, Vanessa Petrini and Jen Holzberg, have improved with each match and are now really playing outstanding doubles,” Bucca said. “They have a really strong record and are really in a very good spot in terms of where they are playing.”

The opportunity for the freshmen to see regular action was another benefit from the three-game stretch. While rookies Lindsay Balsamo and Noor Judeh have been in both the doubles and singles lineup all season, fellow freshman Satreethai Sasinin participated in all three matches.

“In this stage of the year, we like to think of the freshmen in some ways [as] no longer freshmen,” Bucca said. “They know what to expect from the competition, and now they have had enough experience, so now they should be very comfortable in their surroundings.”

The Knights have a chance to continue to get acclimated against Villanova. The Wildcats (2-4) have won two straight matches but lost their previous four by a combined score of 27-3.

While Villanova’s record is not as impressive as some of the other teams Rutgers faced this season, the Knights still have to perform to make their first true home match of the season a win.

“We haven’t had much opportunity to play on campus,” Bucca said. “The team is excited.”

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