Rutgers takes break from Big Ten play with Stony Brook matchup

The Rutgers tennis team will take on Stony Brook this Wednesday at the Rutgers Tennis Complex at noon. The Scarlet Knights (6-11, 1-7) enter the competition losing their last two matches the prior weekend. Rutgers has also lost six of its last seven matches with its lone win coming against Penn State. The team has not been able to capitalize off of that single win.

Stony Brook (4-8, 0-0) enters play winners of its most recent match against NJIT but losers of five consecutive matches previously. It looks to go on a nice streak before it has the Missouri Valley Conference Championships on April 28.

Rutgers is also looking to steal some wins at the Big Ten Championships. It currently sits at No. 12 in the Big Ten rankings. It needs to move up to at least two spots to get into the Championships. 

“I feel good. These matches are key for us and the team understands that,” said head coach Hilary Ritchie.

The team has the fortune of playing three of its last four matches at home and weather permitting, outside in the sun. Hopefully, this can be a huge boost for the Knights. Playing outside — while it feels nice and can make athletes feel looser — can have its downfalls and irregularities when you play with the elements as opposed to indoors.

“Transitioning from indoors to outdoors, we need to step up to the ball more. We need to make sure we’re moving and get into a rhythm,” Ritchie said.

One thing the Knights have not been able to establish this season is a rhythm. The team has never had a win streak of more than two matches. It also hasn't been able to score more than two points in any Big Ten match besides its lone victory at Penn State. That is not to undermine the Penn State win which was a colossal milestone for the tennis program.

“It was huge. Everyone was excited. It has been a long time coming, and thankfully everything went our way,” said junior Chloe Lee.

The next few matches have to be approached with the mindset that they are must wins. Final exams are fast approaching so remaining focused has never been more important for the team and Ritchie is always working to keep the team focused and driven.

“We try to do a lot of things to get them together, workout together and do a lot of team meals so that they bond. We know they have pressures in the classroom so it’s all about compartmentalizing. When they come to practice it’s all about tennis and when they leave they focus on school. It’s demanding, but they manage,” Ritchie said.

Senior Farris Cunningham was on a four singles match win streak until Sunday’s match against Michigan State. She will look to get back on track this Wednesday. Cunningham has been the most consistent Scarlet Knight on the season getting 8 points in the singles matches and going 9-3 with freshman Jacqueline Cochrane in doubles play this season. Cunningham along with the rest of the team will look to get back on track and rally against Stony Brook.

The team has to improve on the little things, stay focused and driven as the last matches approach. Muzik, Cunningham, Du and Lee will have to play their best tennis yet in the coming two weeks if they have any hope of reaching the postseason. 

“We all have the potential to play a lot better, we’ve got to tune into that and pick up a couple more wins,” Lee said.

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

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