Rutgers hosts Penn State in 1st Big Ten dual match of season

Continuing to build from its clean sweep against Delaware, the Rutgers tennis team will take on Penn State Friday at the East Brunswick Racquet Club.

Competing against the Nittany Lions (4-0) will be the first Big Ten dual for the Scarlet Knights (1-0), but is considered a no-play match and will not have any effect on them as they try to qualify for the Big Ten tournament toward the end of the season. 

Despite the no-play rule, Rutgers still plans to treat each new competition in the same manner, no matter how deep the rivalry is with Penn State or any other Big Ten opponent.

“We're going to have the same mentality playing everybody and just focus more on ourselves,” said sophomore Maya Jacobs. 

The Knights have gained a lot of confidence over the past couple of months and their home opener last week was no exception. 

In addition to capturing the doubles point against the Blue Hens (1-3), Rutgers claimed all six singles spots, as well.

No. 1 seed junior Kat Muzik and freshman Tess Fisher contributed a 6-3 win on the doubles court. On the singles court, it was Jacobs that held on for three sets to defeat Delaware's Viva Laas for the No. 1 spot (6-3, 4-6, 6-2).

“Delaware's definitely a tough team, but I think getting into a Big Ten match, playing Penn State, is definitely going to be a new challenge,” Muzik said. “We've been training really hard and have good energy in practices and matches, so I think that will really help.”

The Lions are dominating the court this season with four straight wins already in the books. They have swept 3 out of the 4 matches against Navy, George Washington and Towson. 

Penn State's dual against Pittsburgh was still a strong performance where it only dropped 1 point to win 6-1. 

“The ladies are definitely excited,” said head coach Hilary Ritchie. “They're looking forward to the match. We've really been trying to focus on the process and talk about effort and we know that you have to earn everything."

Tennis isn’t as big of a sport as football or basketball, but the Knights know the amount of work that they’ve put into practice and competition won’t go unnoticed. 

The last time Rutgers played the Lions was back in 2017 where the Knights won 5-2. Penn State head coach Chris Cagle actually credited Rutgers for competing better than his team had during the match. It will be looking to do the same this year.

“Our ladies work at a really high caliber,” Ritchie said. “We push ourselves. The number of hours these ladies commit to their training and their academics is tremendous. The Big Ten, in general, just the caliber of tennis is outstanding.”

Muzik and junior Jaci Cochrane are the only Knights that actually competed against the Lions two years ago. They both contributed singles and doubles points in Rutgers' two Big Ten wins that season.

This time around, the Knights will have a home court advantage and can secure their second win of the season.

"Competing at home is going to be actually really exciting,” Jacobs said. “We have a lot of friends and family coming especially because most of us are from New Jersey, so having a big turnout for our tennis matches will sway the nerves a little bit to perform better.”

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

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