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Rutgers blanks Black Knights for second shutout of season

The Rutgers tennis team won its second consecutive match Friday against Army, 7-0, its second shutout of the season.

“This has to go down as one of the most hard-fought matches that I’ve seen as a head coach,” said head coach Ben Bucca. “This is a huge confidence booster for the team.”

In singles play, Rutgers (4-2) looked to its wins leaders to get it jumpstarted.

Junior Vanessa Petrini dominated the No. 1 singles match with a shutout, 6-0, 6-0, against Erin Colton.

Freshman Gina Li did not have it as easy in the No. 2 spot, needing three sets to defeat Jamila Paul.

Petrini and Li both improved to 5-1 on the year in singles play.

“I was really excited to play after we won all of the doubles matches,” Petrini said. “We were all really pumped up, and I just wanted to go out there and play my game.”

Three-set victories were a theme for the day in singles competition for the Knights — as four of the six matches needed a deciding third set.

Freshman Mariam Zein and sophomore Lindsay Balsamo both came back from losing their respective first sets to win in three sets. The No. 4 singles match featuring freshman Lindsay Kayati against Carolyn Pitman went to a final set tiebreaker where Kayati finally earned the victory despite the rowdy Black Knight (6-3) crowd right behind her.

“I just try to ignore the crowd as best as I can,” Kayati said. “I just have to block it out and focus on the match.”

Bucca was impressed with how Kayati handled the crowd.

“Instead of being intimidated by 50 or so screaming cadets, she thrived in it,” Bucca said.

Even though the doubles competition was not necessary to seal victory, the Knights finished strong and did not lose a match against Army.

The team of Petrini and Li defeated Della Taylor and Elle Taylor to improve to 3-1 on the year. Kayati teamed with Zein, and they earned an impressive victory over Colton and Paul — who were undefeated entering the match. Balsamo and sophomore Noor Judeh completed the clean sweep for Rutgers, winning their match, 8-4.

“Being two freshmen that play together, we just try to stay positive and win the mental battle,” Kayati said. “If we can do that, we can compete athletically against these upperclassmen.”

Rutgers returns home Friday to continue Big East play against Marquette.

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