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Young players emerge as season concludes

The Rutgers tennis team (14-9, 8-4) finished its season this past weekend after a loss in the quarterfinal round to Marquette, 4-0, in the Big East Tournament.

There were a few questions about this Scarlet Knights team entering the season, as the Knights possessed a young team.

“Going in, I knew we had a very young team, and that would present certain challenges,” said head coach Ben Bucca. “One of those challenges would be how we were going to perform in close matches.”

Rutgers had three freshmen on the roster this season, as the trio of Gina Li, Mariam Zein and Lindsey Kayati all performed well.

“The play of the three freshmen was very good this season,” Bucca said. “They all had great years.”

Zein was surprised at how well she adjusted, though she said she grew more comfortable as the season progressed.

“The spring was very hectic,” Zein said. “We were always traveling and always had to be in the mindset to play. My game grew, I grew as a tennis player and really enjoyed it.”

The standout of the group this season was Li, as she posted an overall record of 16-5 and a conference record of 9-1 at the No. 2 singles positions. Both records lead the team.

The strong contributions from Li in her first season gave the Knights a boost this season.

“This is my freshman season, and I experienced so many new things,” Li said. “A lot of great matches and bonds were made between the team. It was a great way to start my college career, and I’m never going to forget it.”

Rutgers now looks to next season in hopes for even more success, as the team will retain its whole roster.

“We have another chance to come back and keep building on everything that we worked on this year,” Zein said.

Rutgers knows it will take hard work to have even more success next year. But the team was proud of the strong effort they gave against Louisville in the Big East Championships and will look to build off of that effort in the future.

“As a team — if we can bring the same intensity as we did in the Louisville match, then we should do well next year,” said junior Stefania Balasa.

The team will also have to put in plenty of work in the offseason if they want to see improvement next year.

“I think if we all work hard over the summer, we should be even better next year,” Balasa said.

This was a year that started off with some questions for the Knights, but they found ways to win some close matches and had a strong season because of it.

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