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Rutgers readies for 2nd straight in-state rival matchup at Seton Hall

After falling to its first mid-week match against Princeton, the Rutgers tennis team is going at it again on Sunday against Seton Hall. The two losses for the Scarlet Knights (3-2) come only when they have competed in an away match, but they are looking to turn that around over the weekend.

“It's a little bit of a weird week for us,” said junior Kat Muzik. “We're super excited to start to play in more matches. We're doing a lot of match play, but mentally, we're all prepared to get out there and fight for the win.”

On Wednesday, Muzik claimed her fourth consecutive singles victory and the only win for Rutgers against the Tigers’ (6-3) Clare McKee, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. Muzik now stands at a perfect 4-0 singles record.

“When it comes to singles, I have the attitude of focusing on my court and supporting my teammates around me, but making sure that I'm locked in and focused during every point,” Muzik said. “Right before every point, I'll zone back into my court.”

Sophomore Maya Jacobs slipped from the No. 1 spot, as she lost to Princeton's Stephanie Schrage in a defining 0-6, 4-6 upset. Jacobs has four singles wins with a 4-1 record on the season.

Junior Jaci Cochrane as well as freshmen Tess Fisher, Sydney Kaplan and Kristiana Zahare fought hard on the court, but ultimately fell in close sets. Fisher missed out on the No. 2 position to the Tigers' Brianna Shvets 0-6, 6-7 (2-7), while Cochrane and Zahare both had similar sets of 2-6, 6-7. 

At the No. 4 spot, Kaplan's match went to three sets against Princeton's Grace Joyce, 4-6, 6-3, 2-6.

In doubles, the duo of Fisher and Muzik secured a 6-2 win at the No. 1 spot, but the Tigers captured the No. 2 spot. Jacobs and Cochrane were edged out in the third doubles match, losing a close 7-6 (7-4) battle to just miss out on the doubles point.

The Knights have definitely made improvements in doubles, but they still has a long way to go to be able to consistently capture the first point of any dual match. Fisher and Muzik have led the way in doubles play throughout the fall and spring season, while other pairs are still trying to establish their chemistry on the court.

“We have a very important focus on doubles, getting that first doubles point and staying really aggressive,” Jacobs said. “It’s the first thing that we do when facing our opponent. If we can start off aggressive in doubles, it can definitely translate to singles, taking the first strike and getting our opponents off guard.”

Rutgers has the opportunity to eliminate its losses at away competitions. The team is keeping its attention on the court day-by-day, and isn't looking ahead at future Big Ten dual matches.

The Knights will have another shot at doubles play when it faces the Pirates (4-2) on Sunday. This season, Seton Hall has a patterned record of two wins and a loss. In the past three matches, the Pirates won against Drexel (5-2) and LIU Brooklyn (7-0) before losing to Fordham (2-5).

Seton Hall was supposed to compete against UConn this past Sunday, but competition was postponed. The Pirates will have an away match against NJIT on Friday evening before returning home to host Rutgers.

Last year, the Knights captured a 6-1 victory over Seton Hall in which Muzik, Cochrane, Jacobs and sophomore Isabelle Da Silva all contributed singles wins for Rutgers.

“We're really going to have to rely on each other because we're all going to be there for every single match,” Jacobs said. “If we still rely on each other's energy, cheering for the person next to you on either side and the home court being away shouldn't be that big of a deal.”

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

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