Rutgers comes up empty in two Big Ten road matches

<p>Senior Farris Cunningham has been a reliable asset for Rutgers this season and put forth a respectable 2-2 record over the weekend in losses to Illinois and Northwestern. </p>

Senior Farris Cunningham has been a reliable asset for Rutgers this season and put forth a respectable 2-2 record over the weekend in losses to Illinois and Northwestern.

The Rutgers tennis team visited Illinois to take on two Big Ten foes in what proved to be a season-defining road trip. With the Scarlet Knights entering the weekend 0-2 in Big Ten play, stealing at least one win was more important now than ever before.

Rutgers (5-8, 0-4) visited Illinois (7-9, 2-1) at the Atkins Tennis Center in Urbane, Illinois. The Knights attempted to get their first Big Ten win but would wind up on the losing end. The Fighting Illini came into the match with a previous week win and were able to keep their momentum going.

The day started with the doubles sets and the usual pairings of junior Mingxiu Du and freshman Katherine Muzik, senior Ksenija Tihomirova with junior Chloe Lee and the duo of senior Farris Cunningham and freshman Jacqueline Cochrane.

The first set to finish was Cunninghman and Cochrane and they were swept 6-0. Their loss combined with a loss from Lee and Tihomirova gave Illinois its first point of the match.

After doubles, the Fighting Illini looked to keep their winning streak. Lee was the first match to finish for the singles portion of the match, losing 6-1 and 6-0.

“I’ve got to stick to my strategy, but if my strategy isn't working I have to find a new one,” Lee said.

Up next was Du, who lost by scores of 6-2 and 6-1. Following Du’s match was Tihomirova, who lost in two sets by scores of 6-3 and 6-1. Muzik continued the rough day for Rutgers, losing both of her sets 6-3 and 6-2.

The day was salvaged by a Cochrane win over her opponent. She won her first set 6-4. before her opponent retired due to injury, giving Cochrane the win. This would be the Knights' only point of the day.

Cunningham was the last woman up and battled for a point. She lost a close first set by a score of 7-6, then rallied to win a set 7-5. Her effort would come up short as she lost her last set and effectively the match, 6-3.

After the loss to the Illini, Rutgers had a second chance to secure its first Big Ten win. The team didn’t have to travel too far, heading over to Evanston, Illinois to take on Northwestern (7-8, 3-0). 

While the Knights fared better against the Wildcats, their efforts to secure their first Big Ten win came up short, as they lost the match by a score of 5-2.

The day started off on a high note, with the duos of Cochrane and Cunningham along with Du and Muzik secured a Rutgers point by besting their opponents in the doubles sets by scores of 6-3 and 7-5.

Lee continued her recent struggles, losing her sets by 6-1 and 6-0. 

“I can't get stuck in a single frame of mind,” Lee said.

The rest of the team also continued to struggle with Tihimirova losing in two sets both by scores of 6-2. Du also lost in two sets by scores of 6-2 and 6-1, respectively.

The day started to trend upward as Muzik fought relentlessly but ultimately lost in three sets with scores of 6-2 and 7-6, though winning one set by a score of 7-2. Another long and tough match was fought by Cochrane who came just short of securing another point for Rutgers, losing in three sets.

The day did end on a high note with a Cunningham victory. She defeated her opponent in two sets by scores of 6-4 and 6-1. 

“It was really good today. I was able to focus and bring my best game,” Cunningham said.

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

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