Rutgers runs Pirates ragged, stretches streak
With Big Ten Conference play rapidly approaching, the Rutgers tennis team added another impressive win to its resume.
In their third straight match against an in-state foe, the Scarlet Knights (4-2) topped Seton Hall, 5-2, on Wednesday in a battle at the East Brunswick Racquet Club.
After a dominating 7-0 win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) last week, the Knights maintained the intensity that has proved vital in defeating Seton Hall over the years.
Although the matchup presents a challenge each year, with their most recent win, the Knights extend their winning streak against the Pirates to eight-straight.
As the season has progressed, head coach Ben Bucca has emphasized avoiding underestimating an opponent based on a sub-par record.
Seton Hall was no exception.
Regardless of the fact that they were entering the match two games below .500 and 0-3 away from home, the Pirates were met by a focused Rutgers team.
“We’ve always had close match[es] with Seton Hall,” Bucca said, “We’ve had a good run of beating them, but the matches have always been close and we knew that [going in]. We discussed yesterday that we had to be prepared, ready to play our best tennis because if we weren’t, then we were at high risk of losing the match.”
Rutgers’ doubles play has been noteworthy this year. Seton Hall brought a higher level of competition than NJIT, but the match yielded much of the same results and impressive teamwork by the Knights’ duos.
In the No. 1 doubles spot, juniors Gina Li and Mariam Zein defeated Big East Player of the Week, Hannah Liljekvist and her partner, Julia Keenan, 8-5. The duos of senior Lindsay Balsamo and freshman Chloe Lee, and Lindsey Kayati and Lee Levy also registered victories against the Pirates in the doubles sweep.
Lee is positive that the commanding doubles wins and team dominance over Seton Hall will keep the Knights’ confidence steady as they travel south to Maryland to face the No. 54 Terrapins on Saturday and Navy on Sunday.
“I think our doubles play today was really strong and I think that’s going to be a huge thing when we play Maryland,” Lee said. “I think we need to come out and try to get the doubles point ... taking today’s doubles play and kind of trying to translate that into Maryland’s match on Saturday and Navy on Sunday is going to really help us.”
Rutgers also won four out of six in singles play.
In the No. 4 singles spot, the fierce competition between the Knights’ senior captain, Lindsay Balsamo, and Seton Hall’s Julia Keenan eventually led to a third-set tiebreak.
Keenan won by a narrow score of, 7-6, 5-7, 13-11, but Bucca saw Balsamo’s performance as further evidence of his team’s unyielding spirit.
“She really battled hard,” Bucca said, "… It was one of those matches where, not to sound cliché, it was a shame that there had to be a loser. I know it was difficult for Lindsay to lose the match, but you have to commend her for her fight.”
Aside from her doubles win, Lee also put forth an impressive performance over Seton Hall’s Katie Kim in a 6-4, 6-2 singles win in the No. 3 spot.
“I feel like I played really well," she said. "... I’m hoping I can bring that same kind of mentality when we play Maryland [and Navy].”
Bucca recognizes the caliber of teams that the Knights will face in the coming weeks and sees their performance against the Pirates as further evidence of a competitive spirit that is vital to success.
“It was really just our focus and our determination throughout the match,” he said. “We definitely had a level of intensity that was very positive and I think that was one of the reasons why we came out victorious, because we just never let up.”
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