Rutgers drops both matches over weekend

In either of its two home clashes with formidable foes Northwestern on Friday and College of Charleston on Sunday, the Rutgers tennis team failed to achieve victory.

So far in their most difficult stretch of schedule, the Scarlet Knights haven’t fared particularly well losing their last three matches, including a hard-fought, decisive defeat at the hands of Maryland last week, and have fallen to 4-5 on the season and 0-2 in conference.

Similar to the Maryland match, Rutgers lost to another fellow Big Ten member with the identical 7-0 score.

Northwestern, one of the premier women’s tennis squads historically as well as this season, dismantled the Knights’ strong doubles attack.

The Wildcats’ team of Erin Larner and Alicia Barnett, who are ranked 35th in the country, as a duo took down the pair of senior Gina Li and Mariam Zein 6-3.

“We fought hard and the score isn’t indicative of the flow of he match,” Zein said. “I think they expected us to lay down and give up, but we truly gave them a run for their money.”

Junior Ksenija Tihomirova and sophomore Chloe Lee attempted with maximum effort too, but couldn’t pick up the slack for Rutgers in second doubles, falling 6-3, even though they entered the match with an impressive 4-3 record on the season.

The third doubles weren't needed as Northwestern had already secured the important doubles point to start the match with those two wins.

In singles action, the Knights as a whole didn’t perform up to the same caliber as they had versus Maryland, and it showed in the results.

Li overpowered Larner in the first set, 7-5, to capture the lone set that went Rutgers way throughout the day.

Larner seized the final two sets, 7-5 in the second and 10-6 in the deciding tie-breaking third.

After the match, head coach Benjamin Bucca spoke to the team reinforcing the togetherness the squad exhibited throughout the day and an importance on having a short memory to quickly recover emotionally.

Bucca and the Knights didn’t have much time to ponder and mull over the setback because they only had a couple days to prepare for another threatening opponent in the College of Charleston.

The Cougars (7-3) haven’t played in conference yet and went into Sunday’s match with confidence, considering they downed Rutgers easily by a mark of 6-1 last season in Charleston, South Carolina.

This time around, the Knights suffered the same losing fate, but were much more competitive, as 4 of their 6 singles matches went to a third set.

In doubles, Rutgers returned to its early season glory by earning the point through an extremely quick sweep.

The tandem of Tihomirova and Lee as well as the pair of senior Lindsey Kayati and sophomore Lee Levy dominated their respective matchups to the same 6-1 score.

“After Friday, we really wanted to be ready so we talked over our opponents in detail,” Levy said. “Our strategy was to stay aggressive no matter what and that mindset led us to victory.”

In singles action, Lee had complete control of her match with the challenging Katherine Schofield, winning in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.

The Colonial Athletic Association, the Charleston’s conference, has twice recognized Schofield for her play this season and for owning a 4-3 record in her team’s No. 2 position.

Zein was another bright spot for the Knights, defeating Argyriou, who came into their battle with a 6-1 record in the No. 5 singles position and was riding a five-match winning streak.

Zein was excellent with her serve and showed her perseverance by bouncing back from a 2-6 first set defeat to triumph decisively 6-2 and 6-1 in the next two frames.

She attributes her solid play to the engaging environment that supported her.

“I really fed off the energy of my teammates,” Zein said. “I saw them battling and it helped me stay confident."

Despite great individual performances, Rutgers could not pull off any other singles victories and ultimately came out on the short end unfortunately with a final score of 4-3.

The Knights will face Longwood at the East Brunswick Racquet Club on Wednesday looking to regain their winning ways.

“We were right there Sunday, so we’re eager and excited to get the win Wednesday,” Levy said. “We’ll be positive and confident.”

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

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