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RU closes out successful year

The Rutgers tennis team feels confident entering its final week of play of the fall individual season.

After back-to-back strong performances at both the Brown Invitational and USTA Invitational, the Scarlet Knights believe their fall campaign has been successful.

Head coach Ben Bucca believes the competition has put the Knights in position to finish the season strong.

“We’re in a really good spot. Both of the two major tournaments have prepared us well,” Bucca said. “We’ve been able to win a majority of matches at both tournaments and the team has worked very hard up to this point.”

But Rutgers must improve in certain aspects. Assistant coach Hilary Ritchie believes the players are performing well, but need to focus on closing out the tough matches.

“Overall, as a team, I think we need to raise our consistency on the court,” Ritchie said. “We strike the ball well and hit it hard, but we need to be a little more consistent in those tight matches.”

One successful area for the unit so far has been the doubles play in each tournament.

Junior Lindsay Balsamo combined with sophomore Mariam Zein in the finals of the Brown Invitational Eagles Double Flight draw, but lost, 8-6, against Providence’s Alana Prinos and Jennifer DeLuca.

The tandem of freshman Farris Cunningham and sophomore Lindsey Kayati made it to the semifinals of the USTA invite against eventual winners Hannah Morrill and Sylvia Li of Harvard.

Bucca knows that as time passes, these doubles pairings will progress because of improving chemistry between the groups.

He has dedicated the fall season to improving the team’s fitness for their upcoming weekend tournaments.

“Doubles is always a challenge so there is a slight learning curve, so we want to continue working on our doubles strategies,” Bucca said. “We want to continue working on our fitness as well. In tennis, fitness is a very key part of the game. At the level these girls are at, their shot making is very advanced so there isn’t much to work on with that.”

Cunningham has recognized the team’s bond and said the team must improve on what it has learned from the tournaments.

“I think we need to focus on what we learned [at the tournaments],” Cunningham said. “We had a really good team dynamic amongst the other teams so we need to keep that up, and also we need to continue to work on our fitness and our strokes so that we will be better prepared for next tournament from both a mental and physical aspect.”

Zein adds to Cunningham’s point that aside from being in the best shape, a positive mentality is vital.

“Being mentally tough is one of the most important aspects of the game,” Zein says. “You have to stay mentally tough on the court because when you make mistakes, no one is there to fix them for you. You’re out there by yourself so you have to deal with it and move on to the next point and win the next point.”

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

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