Rutgers sweeps ’Nova in league opener

<p>Freshman Lindsay Balsamo follows through Feb. 17 against Army. Balsamo won her singles match, 6-1, 6-0, one of two singles wins for Knights rookies yesterday against Villanova.</p>

Freshman Lindsay Balsamo follows through Feb. 17 against Army. Balsamo won her singles match, 6-1, 6-0, one of two singles wins for Knights rookies yesterday against Villanova.

While the weather outside resembled the conditions the Rutgers tennis team experienced during its three-game trip to South Carolina, the outcome of yesterday’s match yielded a different result.

The Scarlet Knights secured an easy victory against Villanova in their first outdoor home match in two years, defeating the Wildcats, 7-0, at the Rutgers Tennis Complex.

“We didn’t have one home match here my whole freshman year, so it’s pretty much my first home match ever,” said sophomore Vanessa Petrini. “It feels good.”

While Rutgers went only 1-2 during its spring break matches against the College of Charleston, Boston University and Charleston Southern, doubles was a strong point in those contests.

The trend continued yesterday, as the Knights (7-6, 1-0) swept the doubles points from Villanova (2-5, 0-1),, which entered the match on the heels of a 4-3 defeat Tuesday at the hands of Loyola (Md.).

Senior Jennifer Holzberg and Petrini led the way in No. 1 doubles for Rutgers. Both players looked at ease against the Wildcats’ Allison Solberg and Kristin Gobberg, taking their doubles match, 8-1.

The duo of Holzberg and Petrini have looked impressive in the first half of the spring season, holding a 10-2 doubles record, including a 4-1 mark in conference play. So it was not a surprise when it barely broke a sweat in its doubles victory against Villanova, which had no answer for the duo’s serves.

No. 2 and 3 doubles also produced, as senior Morgan Ivey paired with freshman Lindsay Balsamo for an 8-3 win against Mikelle Mancini and Kate Pettee. Sophomore Stefania Balasa and freshman Noor Judeh defeated Wesleigh Donadio and Amanda Nelson, 8-1, in No.3 doubles to sweep the doubles point.

“I thought strategically we played strong,” said head coach Ben Bucca about doubles. “We had a convincing win and looked good right down the line. All three doubles teams played well.”

Petrini continued to play in No. 1 singles for the Knights, taking over the leading position for senior co-captain Holzberg last Wednesday against Charleston Southern.

The move was successful for Bucca, with Petrini capturing a straight-set, 6-2, 6-4 win against Mancini. The Rutgers co-leader in singles victories (nine) kept Mancini guessing, highlighted by a rainbow shot for a point in the second set.

“I think I played well,” Petrini said. “She gave me harder balls to work with, so it was a variety. So I had to come together and play well.”

In the No. 2 position, Holzberg defeated Nelson, 6-3, 6-0, while Ivey won in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. Balasa was the first Knight to finish her match, capturing a 6-0, 6-1 victory against Donadio. Both freshmen in the lineup secured wins, as well, with Balsamo winning, 6-1, 6-0, and Judeh capping the sweep with a 6-1, 6-1 mark.

The Knights have a chance to strengthen their record Sunday, when St. John’s arrives in Piscataway. Though the Red Storm currently hold a 2-9 record, Bucca knows the match will feature a different type of play than against Villanova.

“St. John’s will be a tough match,” Bucca said. “It will be a totally different match from today. They’re a strong team and we had a very close match with them last year. Their match record is deceiving compared to their level of play.”

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