Schedule provides Rutgers with challenge, advantage

The Rutgers tennis team knows how important constant competition is to their success.

Head coach Ben Bucca schedules tough tournaments and games so his players can see what it is like to be around the best players in the country.

“We always play a demanding schedule,” Bucca said. “That is what our program has become. One result of that is we have become one of the more respected teams in the region.”

This strong competition was evident when the Scarlet Knights traveled to Providence for the Brown Invitational two weekends ago.

Rutgers faced Boston College, Boston University and Brown. All three of those teams finished in the top 10 at the end of last season’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast region rankings. Along with those teams, other top regional squads including Binghamton and Providence tested the Knights.

Rutgers was successful in the tournament, which included freshman Farris Cunningham and junior Lindsay Balsamo reaching the finals of their respective singles draws.

“Year after year, it is reaffirmation that we belong with the elite teams in the region,” Bucca said. “This [was] a tournament where there are some teams that play at a higher level than we do, so we were excited that we got some really good victories.”

Assistant coach Hilary Ritchie agrees that competitions like the Brown Invitational allow the team to be around some of the best.

“It was a great weekend,” Ritchie said. “There was a good representations of teams from the Northeast and some really strong competition.”

Bucca has seen the benefits of strong competition in the advancement of Rutgers to the next level over the years. Over the past 10 seasons, Bucca has posted an impressive 132-94 record and the team has qualified for the Big East Tournament nine times.

His philosophy is the more opportunities his players have to practice game-like situations, the better they will become.

Senior Vanessa Petrini has bought into the system for four years and feels that it all starts with practice matches and intrasquad competition.

“We’re all huge competitors. We’re always trying to compete harder than each other,” Petrini said. “Even in practice matches we’ll always try to go out there and beat each other.”

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