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Invitational serves as first real test of fall season

<p>Senior Vanessa Petrini said she wants to experience a better individual season this fall. During the spring season last year, Petrini compiled an 11-10 singles record.</p>

Senior Vanessa Petrini said she wants to experience a better individual season this fall. During the spring season last year, Petrini compiled an 11-10 singles record.

The Rutgers tennis team opens its fall season this weekend in Providence at the Brown Invitational.

The Scarlet Knights enter the tournament confident off of a strong preseason scrimmage against NJIT.

Senior Vanessa Petrini is excited for her final autumn run.

“Every year I come back, I want to do better and better,” Petrini said. “I am hoping that I have a good individual season this fall.”

The Knights return all their starters from a spring season in which they went 14-9. Rutgers lost in the second round of the Big East Tournament before to Louisville, 4-0.

Head coach Ben Bucca will use the Brown Invitational as an opportunity to see how the team reacts to its first live match since the spring.

“It will be our first time traveling as a team, so there’s always some really strong bonding experiences that go on, but in addition, it’s always really strong competition,” Bucca said. “I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say that we are anxious to get up there and compete.”

Assistant coach Hilary Ritchie, meanwhile, is curious to see how the team reacts to each other, particularly freshman Farris Cunningham.

“I’m looking forward to watching the ladies compete for the first time, especially Farris,” Ritchie said. “Every year the chemistry is always different, so it’s nice to watch them at Brown and get a few matches in.”

Cunningham is the only newcomer this year, and Petrini and sophomore Gina Li will open in No. 1 doubles. Senior Stefania Balasa, juniors Lindsay Balsamo and Noor Judeh and sophomores Mariam Zein and Lindsey Kayati round out the roster.

Bucca has put a major emphasis on getting the team in the best shape possible for the upcoming season.

“At the level these girls are at, their shot making is very advanced, so there isn’t much to work on with that, but we spend a lot of time on fitness,” Bucca said. “I think that is why we have been as successful as we have been.”

Rutgers will face Boston College, Boston and Brown. All three squads finished in the top 10 at the end of last season’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast region rankings. Other teams competing in the tournament include Binghamton and Providence.

This will be the first weekend of action for all the teams except for Binghamton, which opened their season last weekend competing in the Cornell Fall Invitational.

The Invitational will begin today and run all weekend.

For updates on the Rutgers tennis team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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