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Four qualify for weekend championship

<p>Lindsay Balsamo will compete in the ITA Northeast Regional Championships today. Rutgers will have four members in this year’s field, four fewer than last season.</p>

Lindsay Balsamo will compete in the ITA Northeast Regional Championships today. Rutgers will have four members in this year’s field, four fewer than last season.

Four members of the Rutgers tennis team made the qualifications to compete at this weekend’s ITA Northeast Regional Championship.

Coming off a strong showing at the USTA Invitational in Flushing, N.Y., the players will travel today to Harvard, this year’s championship host.

Senior Vanessa Petrini, juniors Lindsay Balsamo and Mariam Zein and sophomore Gina Li stand among the 103 participants from 33 schools.

All four will compete for the second consecutive year, with Petrini making it to the semifinals of the singles draw the past two seasons. In doing so, Petrini became the first player in Rutgers history to make it to the semifinals two straight seasons.

The competition begins today with pre-qualifying singles matches, while main draw action is slated for tomorrow through Tuesday.

At the 2012 championships, which Army hosted in West Point, N.Y, Petrini held the 32nd seed and won her quarterfinal match in the main singles draw. She downed fifth-seeded Jessica Wacnik of Boston College, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, to advance to the semifinal round before falling to the eventual singles winner, No. 11 Amanda Mulliawan of Princeton, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6.

Head coach Ben Bucca credits Petrini’s work ethic during practice to prepare her for repeated success at the regional championship.

“It seems that the regionals, being an indoor tournament, brings the best in her play,” Bucca said. “She has trained hard this fall and I know she is ready to do well.”

Petrini also eliminated top-seeded Nicole Bartnik of Columbia in last season’s Round of 32.

With eight Knights chosen to compete last season, followed by four this year, Rutgers feels it is reaffirmation that it belongs with some of the top teams in the region.

“To see the number of players that we now have qualify for the regional championships every year, it brings a certain sense of satisfaction to the program,” Bucca said. “We have improved significantly and have now clearly established ourselves as one of the leading programs in the region.”

The tournament takes place at Harvard’s Murr Center, which holds six indoor tennis courts and won the USTA Facility Award in 1999 for high standards.

Players will compete for automatic entry into the 2013 USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships from Nov. 7-10 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. All singles and doubles champions from each region will receive a berth.

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

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