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Rutgers grinds through doubles matches to top Seton Hall

Normally, a 6-1 win in tennis means the match was not close at all. For the Rutgers tennis team, it could not have been more different.

The Scarlet Knights (13-4, 3-1) defeated Seton Hall (10-8) by that exact score yesterday in Mendham, N.J., but they struggled at certain points throughout the match.

“The doubles matches were so nerve-wracking,” said assistant coach Hilary Ritchie. “They were so back and forth, and luckily, we came out on top.”

After senior co-captain Vanessa Petrini and sophomore Lindsey Kayati fell in the first doubles match, sophomore Gina Li and freshman Farris Cunningham evened the score at one. With the doubles point on the line, junior Lindsay Balsamo and sophomore Mariam Zein pulled out a tough 8-4 win to take the point.

The Knights want to implement their consistent doubles strategy in every match, but they struggled to do it effectively.

“We always want to stick to our game plan by playing strong and aggressive doubles,” Ritchie said. “We just couldn’t get going right away, and we had to squeak out that doubles point.”

Even with Rutgers taking five of the six singles points, the Knights lacked fire out of the gate by getting off to slow starts in those matches as well.

“Some of our strongest players like Lindsay [Balsamo] and Vanessa [Petrini] just didn’t play that well early on and their matches were so tight,” Ritchie said. “They eventually played a lot better, and it showed with the way they finished their matches with decisive wins.”

Balsamo admitted to not playing extremely well.

“I didn’t play my best today but I was happy that I still found a way to win,” Balsamo said. “I picked up on certain patterns that worked best during my match and I served extremely well.”

The Knights may have struggled to implement their aggressive doubles strategy, but they did execute their singles strategy well.

“Everyone has the right idea when it comes to which strategy to use against a given opponent and we were all able to apply it well,” said senior co-captain Stefania Balasa.

Rutgers extended its winning streak to five matches. The team has also won 10 of its last 11 contests.

The Knights’ next challenge lies in their attempt to finish the season strong. Two more regular season matches are between the Knights and the AAC Tournament.

If the Knights are able get to 15 wins to end the regular season, it would help them get a high seed and also provide momentum going into the tournament with a seven-game winning streak.

But the momentum that they’ve gained in the last few weeks could fall to pieces if they drop their last two matches.

Rutgers has yet to play a home outdoor match, but the Knights have a chance to do that this weekend.

“We have two home matches coming up outside on Friday and Saturday, so that’ll definitely be exciting for us,” Ritchie said.

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

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