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Junior’s offseason work pays dividends

<p>Junior Lindsay Balsamo went down to Florida during the offseason to improve her endurance and skills. Balsamo is 10-1 in singles matches this season.</p>

Junior Lindsay Balsamo went down to Florida during the offseason to improve her endurance and skills. Balsamo is 10-1 in singles matches this season.

Many athletes know the key to success is to win in the offseason. Putting in those long, grueling hours in the summer and fall pays dividends when it’s time to play months later.

For junior Lindsay Balsamo, that notion could not be more true.

After struggling for the Rutgers tennis team last season, she knew that she had to change some aspects of her game for the upcoming year.

“I wasn’t playing very well,” Balsamo said. “I wasn’t winning nearly as much. I don’t remember the exact record but it wasn’t very good. I just had no confidence and I wasn’t believing that I could go out there and win every match.”

Balsamo didn’t want to face similar results this season, so she took part in an offseason program.

The Wall, N.J., native went down to Florida to train and improve her skills before the spring season. She knew that focusing on her overall game rather than specific parts would benefit her and the team the most.

“I didn’t necessarily focus on any particular skill, but rather just trying to help make my game better in general,” Balsamo said. “My coaches told me I was very quick and I should use that to my advantage. I just worked on conditioning down in Florida so I could be in the best shape for the spring season.”

All the work has helped her become one of the premiere Scarlet Knights this season. She has posted an impressive 10-1 record in the singles this season.

Head coach Ben Bucca has noticed Balsamo’s performance and improvements.

“Lindsay is a hard-working and disciplined player,” Bucca said. “Her tennis has really blossomed this season compared to last year. You can just tell she is so much more confident in her aggressive play and that’s what we try to teach here at Rutgers.”

Her superb play even caused her to move up in the lineup.

“She started playing in sixth singles for us but since she played so well, we decided to move her up to fifth singles where she is undefeated,” Bucca said.

Working on conditioning and getting her body in better shape has not only helped Balsamo improve her own game, but influence other teammates to do the same.

“Her incredible fitness level pushes the rest of us to work hard in the weight room and on the court,” said sophomore Lindsey Kayati. “She’s improved so much from last season. She’s definitely hitting the ball crisper and harder on her serves.”

When asked if Balsamo is playing more confidently this season, Kayati did not hesitate.

“Absolutely,” Kayati said. “She is implementing her impeccable mental strength and ability to figure things out on the court by making good choices on shot selection and being more consistent.”

The support she has gotten from her teammates shows the value of putting in work in the offseason.

Being the only junior on the team means Balsamo will have to take over the leadership role that is currently occupied by senior co-captains Vanessa Petrini and Stefania Balasa next season.

Being the only senior next season clearly presents some challenges from a leadership perspective, but Balsamo knows she’s learned from great role models.

“There’s definitely some pressure to lead the team,” she said. “But we have some great players coming back and we’ll be a solid group. I’ve learned from the two seniors this season and they’ve provided such a great example. I’m definitely ready to take the next step and become a leader for this team.”

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

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