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Rutgers ends regular season on seven-match winning streak

<p>Senior Vanessa Petrini finished her Rutgers career Sunday and won her final singles match to end the season at 13-6.</p>

Senior Vanessa Petrini finished her Rutgers career Sunday and won her final singles match to end the season at 13-6.

Following a victory Friday afternoon against Villanova, the Rutgers tennis team defeated St. John’s on Sunday by a score of 6-1.

It gave the Scarlet Knights a 15-4 record and seven-match winning streak to end the regular season.

Although Rutgers beat the Red Storm, 6-1, the match was anything but easy.

“It was definitely an intense match,” said head coach Ben Bucca. “It was our first true warm weather match of the season and it was tough on us. We did have a nice crowd so the girls were able to rally around the energy and win the match.”

The Knights lost the first doubles match before taking the next two in order to earn the key doubles point that usually indicates who will win the entire match.

Senior co-captain Vanessa Petrini, playing in her final home match of her career, started slowly but was able to regroup and pick up the win in her singles match, 4-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4.

“I had a really long and hard three-set match but I was able to pull through in the end,” Petrini said. “I just tried to stay positive through it all and it obviously helped.”

Bucca was impressed with the way the senior fought through adversity.

“There was a nice crowd on hand and they were able to see Vanessa play so well,” Bucca said. “She had to come back from an early deficit and fight her way back. She played incredibly and the way she fought back was so typical of her career here at Rutgers. She’s always been a tough girl and she’s always given everything she has.”

The last match was definitely emotional for Petrini but the crowd support helped.

“It was such a bittersweet match,” Petrini said. “It was awesome to have my teammates, friends, family and fans there supporting me and cheering me on. I felt very confident in my play, but being home made it even more special for me. It was both a happy and sad day for me.”

Following its match against St. John’s, Rutgers now has to travel to Tampa, Fla. to play Thursday-Sunday in the AAC Tournament.

Their first-round opponent remains to be seen, but the streaking Knights feel they can handle any level of competition. Rutgers has won 12 of 13 matches since Feb. 21.

The other co-captain of the team, senior Stefania Balasa, reflected on how tough the final match was for her. She fell, 6-3, 6-2, in the fourth singles position.

But Balasa explained how playing with that mental toughness proves Rutgers can handle anything.

“It obviously felt pretty emotional playing my last home match and it was a bit tougher on me mentally,” Balasa said. “I think the team did really well though in closing out the regular season before the conference tournament and we proved that we can play well under any circumstance.”

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

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