Head coach says Rutgers finished year strongly

<p>Sophomore Gina Li enjoyed a strong fall season for the Knights after her breakout rookie season, when she went 16-5 last year.</p>

Sophomore Gina Li enjoyed a strong fall season for the Knights after her breakout rookie season, when she went 16-5 last year.

As one season ends, another begins.

The Rutgers tennis team completed a tough fall season this weekend and will begin offseason training to prepare for the spring campaign.

Head coach Ben Bucca is proud of the way the Scarlet Knights performed this season in tournaments and practices.

“I speak for everyone when I say that we are satisfied in knowing that [the team] really pushed forward and put forth a strong effort this season,” Bucca said. “In practices, in weight training and in competitions, they really held nothing back.”

Assistant coach Hilary Ritchie said the tough competition the Knights faced this fall should prepare the team for the spring season.

“This fall was hard on the girls in a really good way,” Ritchie said. “I think we challenged them and they rose to face the adversity during practice and conditioning. The girls are excited to keep training in the offseason. They are looking forward to playing in the dual matches and seeing how they can improve for the spring.”

A few bright spots for the team include freshman Farris Cunningham, sophomore Gina Li and senior Vanessa Petrini.

Cunningham impressed in her first tournament with the Knights at the Brown Invitational as the only newcomer. She reached the finals of the Blue Singles Flight, but withdrew in the final match against Binghamton’s Annie DiMuro due to an ankle injury.

Li also played a strong fall season coming off the spring. Bucca praised Li for her progress this season both on the court and in training.

“[Gina] is just continuing to get better and better,” Bucca said. “This was a transformation fall semester for her. She went from a very good player, to a player who belongs among the top in the region.”

Petrini hopes to improve upon one of the best careers in Rutgers’ recent history.

“Every year I come back, I want to do better and better,” Petrini said. “In the spring I want to come out and try to win a majority of my matches.”

Ritchie feels confident entering the offseason, but understands the team must improve in doubles play.

“We’re going to put a lot of emphasis on our doubles,” Ritchie said. “Our strategy is good, and I think our girls are really understanding the game. Now we just need to be confident in executing some of those plays.”

Bucca knows this offseason will not be easy. With fewer practices, the responsibility now shifts to the players to make sure they are training properly.

“The biggest challenge is now for the girls to do their very best dealing with all of the normal distractions of being a college student and to stay in shape,” Bucca said. “We practice significantly less now, and they have to come back ready to play in January. We have a really tough schedule and our matches could go either way. We need to be on top of our game.”

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

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