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Rutgers hosts first outdoor match of season

<p>Senior Vanessa Petrini said Rutgers’ confidence and morale is high after going 2-1 in New Orleans over the spring recess. Rutgers will play Temple after improving to 9-4 on the season.</p>

Senior Vanessa Petrini said Rutgers’ confidence and morale is high after going 2-1 in New Orleans over the spring recess. Rutgers will play Temple after improving to 9-4 on the season.

Following a successful three-match set in New Orleans, the Rutgers tennis team returns home to face fellow AAC rival Temple tomorrow, followed by Fordham on Sunday.

Over spring break, the Scarlet Knights went 2-1 in “The Big Easy,” defeating Tulane and Southern Methodist while falling to Southeastern Louisiana.

The solid trip resulted in a 9-4 overall record for Rutgers as it gets back into conference play against the Owls.

Temple has had its struggles this season. A 5-9 record overall with a 3-6 record on the road bodes well for the Knights.

The success over spring break will help provide some momentum for Rutgers when it faces Temple tomorrow at the RU Tennis Complex at 1 p.m.

“Our team confidence and morale is high after a great spring break trip,” said senior Vanessa Petrini. “We know we can win, and we’ve been working hard all week in practice in order to prepare for this big conference match. Focusing a lot on doubles will be important.”

The Knights have had much success in the doubles points, which have helped them take control of matches. In their two victories over spring break, they won the doubles point while losing it in their lone defeat in New Orleans.

Aside from hoping to improve to 10-4 on the season, Rutgers knows it must perform well for other reasons.

“This match will be extremely important for us regarding conference seeding for the tournament,” said junior Lindsay Balsamo.

Another win on Friday will help push the Knights toward a strong run at the end of the season. They currently sit in the middle of the pack in the AAC, and adding wins against inferior opponents will be key in climbing the standings.

The Knights got their first taste of outdoor tennis in New Orleans last week, but playing outside Friday in Piscataway will provide unique challenges.

New Orleans tends to be much warmer this time of year than New Jersey. Playing with cool temperatures outside can affect the play in different ways.

Regardless, one particular player does not think it will be an issue.

“If we are indoors or outdoors, we know that we have to stay focused on our game in order to play our best and come out on top,” Petrini said.

The game plan of worrying about what they can control, limiting unforced errors and winning the doubles point has been the Knights’ mantra season. With the way they have been playing lately, there is no reason to tinker with that mindset.

But Balsamo did admit to really enjoying playing outside at home.

“Playing home and outside will be exciting for us,” Balsamo said. “We feel as if we compete our best when we are playing outside on our home courts. We also love being able to have fans cheer us on while we play.”

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

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