Rutgers suffers first defeat of year at home

<p>Freshman Noor Judeh captured wins in No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles play.</p>

Freshman Noor Judeh captured wins in No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles play.

After the Rutgers tennis team suffered its second loss of the weekend in a 5-2 loss to Denver, head coach Ben Bucca could only find one word to describe the outcome of two matches: frustrating.

“Down the line we played really good tennis,” Bucca said. “But on the other hand, there is a degree of frustration, and that is to see that we can compete against the best but come up short.”

Both matches on the weekend, Sunday’s loss to Denver and Friday’s defeat against Yale, moved the Scarlet Knights back to .500 on the season.

When the Knights (8-8, 3-3) hosted Denver (10-8) at the RU Tennis Complex, they had an opportunity to split their weekend matches. But Rutgers’ guest from Colorado proved to be too much.

Senior Jennifer Holzberg and sophomore Vanessa Petrini lost in No.1 doubles play, where they have become a consistent duo this season. Denver’s Sophia Bergner and Steffi Rath defeated the pair, 8-6.

Senior Morgan Ivey and freshman Lindsay Balsamo could not record a win, either, dropping the No. 2 doubles match, 8-5, against Elena Najera-Salas and Natalie Dunn. Sophomore Stefania Balasa and freshman Noor Judeh won in No. 3 doubles, 8-6, but it was not enough to capture the doubles point.

Despite the loss, Bucca was happy with the way the team fought in doubles action.

“We played good doubles. We were just so close in matches,” Bucca said. “The doubles were right there, which is a good indication that we are playing to our best abilities in doubles.”

Singles was the only part of the match where Rutgers secured points, and the contribution came from two freshmen. Balsamo defeated Ruth in a suspended No. 5 singles match, 7-6, 4-3, while Judeh was victorious in the No. 6 match, 6-2, 6-3.

Judeh’s performance in both doubles and singles play was something Bucca looked for all season out of the rookie. Judeh has struggled in her first season with a 5-8 singles record. But her recent play resulted in three singles victories in her last four matches.

“She had a very good day,” Bucca said. “Hopefully the breakthrough today will bring her to the level of play where we know she should be at.”

The Knights were also unsuccessful securing the doubles point in Friday’s 6-1 loss against No. 26 Yale in New Haven, Conn. The Bulldogs (12-3) swept doubles, including a 9-8 victory facing Petrini and Holzberg in No. 1 doubles.

Petrini could not capture her 10th singles win of the season, dropping her match to Yale’s Elizabeth Epstein, 6-3, 6-3. Holzberg dropped her match, 6-3, 6-7, 10-6, while Balasa lost in straight sets to Vicky Brook, 6-4, 6-3.

Ivey was the only Knight to secure a point in the match. The senior co-captain won her close No. 3 singles match, 6-3, 2-6, 10-7.

Both freshmen lost their matches, capping Rutgers’ fourth loss to a ranked opponent and its second defeat this season to an Ivy League school.

With Rutgers’ return to a .500 record, the focus shifts to tomorrow’s match against Connecticut to repeat its former winning ways. Bucca wants the team to use the weekend as a learning experience going into the later part of its schedule.

“They have to bring the positive spirit to our next match against UConn,” Bucca said. “They cannot hang their heads after losing to two good opponents.”

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