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Rutgers beats Wisconsin, loses to Minnesota in split weekend

The Rutgers tennis team finished off its regular season schedule at home this weekend against two Big Ten opponents in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Scarlet Knights (8-13, 2-9) faced the Badgers (4-15, 0-10) on Friday and the Gophers (13-11, 5-6) Sunday. 

Friday’s match was originally supposed to be outside at the Rutgers Tennis Complex but was relocated to the East Brunswick Racquet Club. 

There, the doubles point was quickly awarded to the Badgers.

“To be quite honest I was disappointed after the doubles. I thought we had a real chance to get ahead there, but the team showed a lot of resiliency to come back and fight hard in the singles,” head coach Hilary Ritchie said.

The Knights did fight hard in what would prove to be one of the closest matches of the season and a very emotional one for Rutgers. After the doubles loss, freshman Jacqueline Cochrane was the first of the singles matches to finish. She had a strong outing and defeated her opponent in two sets by scores of 6-2 and 6-0. Senior Ksenija Tihomirova was able to collect her first Big Ten singles win of the season in two sets both by a score of 6-3. 

Senior Farris Cunningham was next to finish. She failed to pick up her sixth Big Ten conference win losing in two sets by scores of 6-4 and 6-1. Junior Mingxiu Du finished her match by winning her two sets 6-3 and 6-5. Junior Chloe Lee fell to her opponent in two sets by scores of 6-2 and 6-4.

The match at this point was tied at 3-3 with the deciding point between freshman Katherine Muzik and Wisconsin’s Melissa Pick. The match came down to a nail-biting tie-breaker and a Muzik victory, earning Rutgers its second Big Ten win by a score of 4-3. Muzik won with a scoreline of 7-6 (2-0), 7-6 (3-0).

“I felt really good. I was trying to not push to a third set since the match was already so long. There was a lot of pressure today but a second Big Ten win feels amazing,” Muzik said.

With the first match of the weekend completed the Knights turned their racquets toward Minnesota. Sunday’s matchup against the Gophers was also Senior Day for the Rutgers, where Cunningham and Tihomirova were both honored for their roles on the team.

“I felt good today. I was prepared to leave it all out on the court, and I did. I’ve played many years and put a lot of hard work in, and it feels great to represent Rutgers Athletics the best I can,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham fully embraced the mantra of Senior Day as she successfully subdued her opponent en route to her sixth Big Ten win on the season. She scored the only point of the day for the Knights, highlighting her strong senior campaign. The rest of the team may not have fared as well, but there was no lack of effort in the tough loss.

Rutgers dropped the doubles point to start. Soon after Du lost her match in two sets by scores of 6-1 and 6-3, Lee dropped her match next in two sets both by scores of 6-2. Tihomirova lost her match in three sets with a scoreline of 6-3, 0-6 and 6-4.

Muzik and Cochrane also took their matches into highly contested third sets. Muzik won the first but went on to lose the next two. The set scores were 5-7, 7-5 and 10-8. Cochrane lost the first set, won the second one convincingly and dropped the third. The set scores were 6-5, 0-6 and 6-3. Rutgers did lose, but the 6-1 final score did not represent the gap between the two teams.

“We’ve had a great season. It was a rollercoaster with some tough matches in the beginning, but we made some history and to play this well at the end of the season tells us a lot about this team,” Ritchie said.

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

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