September 22, 2019 | 85° F

Rutgers takes momentum into final conference matchups

Photo by Noah Whittenburg |

Senior Vanessa Petrini said Rutgers will win this weekend by focusing on its doubles strategy. The Knights look to end the regular season with two wins to extend their win streak to seven games. Petrini and senior Stefanie Balasa will be honored in Sunday’s final home match.

Looking to continue riding a five-game winning this weekend, the Rutgers tennis team will host Villanova and St. John’s this weekend.

The two matches conclude the regular season for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers (13-4, 3-1) hopes to continue its recent stretch of play and provide momentum for the AAC Tournament in a week.

Villanova, which has struggled mightily this season with an undesirable 3-11 record, plays in Piscataway on Friday.

Regardless, the Knights understand they cannot let their play stumble.

“We definitely need to keep our focus up for these next two matches,” said junior Lindsay Balsamo. “We have a good record against Villanova and we’re definitely happy to play them at home.”

Although Rutgers is executing on all cylinders, if the Knights let up and lose one of these next two matches, it may thwart the progress they have made over the past six weeks.

A 10-1 record over the Knights’ last eleven matches speaks for itself, and if they could push that to 12-1 to finish the season, there could be a long run in the tournament ahead of them.

There is no doubt in head coach Ben Bucca’s mind that his team will come out on top against the Wildcats.

“We’re definitely confident, and I know we’ll be ready to win,” Bucca said. “We beat them 7-0 last season, and I know the girls will come out and play sound tennis like they always do.”

Following Friday’s match against Villanova, Rutgers will welcome St. John’s on Sunday to officially end the regular season.

St. John’s has posted an 8-7 record this season, but even a decent year does not match the success that the Knights have had so far.

It also marks a special day for Rutgers as it will recognize two seniors — Stefania Balasa and Vanessa Petrini.

Petrini is hoping that the team plays well but is also looking forward to seeing some familiar faces at the match.

“In order to win these next two matches our focus needs to be high for our doubles strategy and performance,” she said. “If we do that, I know we’ll win. It’ll also be awesome because we can have all of our friends and families there and that’s always nice.”

A final game or match in any sport can be difficult for a player to cope with. But when asked if she was dreading playing her final regular season match, Petrini tried to stay optimistic.

“I don’t know if upset is really the word to describe how I’m feeling. … It’s more of a bittersweet feeling,” Petrini said.

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

Nick Jannarone

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