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Rutgers sets up for strong spring

<p>Sophomore Gina Li was one of four Knights who qualified for the ITA Northeast Regional Champs this season, which was the most in program history.</p>

Sophomore Gina Li was one of four Knights who qualified for the ITA Northeast Regional Champs this season, which was the most in program history.

The Rutgers tennis team finally feels it has the firepower to compete with some of the top teams in the Northeast Region.

The squad believes a combination of a strong youthful roster and constant strong competition led it to a position of success.

Head coach Ben Bucca’s philosophy of beating the best to be the best rubbed off on his players.

In the fall individual season, Bucca scheduled one of the toughest schedules in the ITA Northeast Regional, and his team responded.

Having to face top-15 teams in the region such as Boston College, Harvard and Yale, several matches provided the young Scarlet Knights roster with valuable experience they will hope to carry into the team spring season.

Freshman Farris Cunningham was the squad’s lone addition in the offseason, and the recruit rose to the high expectations.

Cunningham was more than impressive in her first collegiate tournament at the Brown Invitational in September.

Cunningham fought through an ankle injury in the semifinals to reach the final match against Binghamton’s Annie DiMuro. She was eventually forced to withdraw in the finals, but the coaches respected the gutsy effort.

Sophomore Gina Li continued upon her dominant freshman campaign in the fall.

Li was selected to the ITA Northeast Regional Championships, along with three other teammates, which was the most in program history.

The Hillsborough (N.J.) High School product automatically qualified for the main draw with senior Vanessa Petrini. But Li dropped her first match to Brown’s Dayna Lord, who eventually reached the championship match.

Petrini made the ITA Championships for the third consecutive season, which was also a program record. After two straight semifinal appearances, Petrini lost in the round of 32 this tournament.

Rutgers must maintain the momentum for the spring season, which holds several unknowns. Accustomed to the teams in the northeast, the Knights will face various new squads from around the country.

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