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Rutgers sweeps weekend series in New Orleans

The Rutgers tennis team traveled to New Orleans during spring break to take on Southern University and Binghamton. The Scarlet Knights (8-5, 0-3) defeated the Jaguars, 7-0, and the Bearcats, 6-1, over the weekend before returning to New Jersey.

“We had a great training trip to New Orleans,” said head coach Hilary Ritchie. “The weather has been ideal. It is important to get a lot of repetition outside right now. During both matches, we had to focus on moving up to the ball and dictating the points.”

Taking control of both matches, Rutgers first took on Southern University on Friday, throwing down a clean sweep of the doubles point and all six singles matches. 

Freshmen Sydney Kaplan and Kristiana Zahare paired up to easily defeat the Jaguars 6-1 while team captain duo junior Jaci Cochrane and sophomore Maya Jacobs struggled in a 6-2 loss to Southern University.

Securing the doubles point came down to the duo of junior Kat Muzik and freshman Tess Fisher, defeating the Jaguars' Tanaka Chakanyuka and Rufaro Chirewa in a solid 6-4 win.

On the singles court, Muzik and Fisher were back at it with Southern University's No. 1 doubles pair. Luckily, the Knights didn’t let up for 1 second with Muzik fighting for the No. 1 spot with a 6-1, 3-6, 10-4 decision. Fisher reeled in the No. 2 position in sets of 6-2, 7-6 (0-4).

At the No. 3 and 4 spots, Kaplan and Cochrane dominated their courts. Kaplan landed a 6-0, 6-1 decision with the Jaguars winning a single game point. Cochrane ran through a strong 6-3, 6-0 win.

“Spring break matches are always fun, yet a little bit tough because everything is outside with a lot of different elements,” Cochrane said. “Overall, the team was able to have fun while adjusting to the Louisiana conditions and being mentally tough.”

The following day, Rutgers was ready to serve up some more competition against the Bearcats. 

The Knights switched up No. 2 and 3 doubles pairs, which played out extremely well. Zahare and sophomore Isabelle Da Silva as well as Cochrane and Kaplan came away with clean 6-0 wins. Fisher and Muzik were able to notch a second doubles point with their 6-4 decision over Binghamton’s Tiffany Dun and Samara Eisenberg.

Similar to Kaplan’s singles play on Friday, Da Silva served up a 6-0, 6-1 win at the No. 6 spot. Cochrane also kept game points to a minimum, winning in two strong sets of 6-0, 6-2. 

Coming down to the top two spots in the column, Muzik and Jacobs fought to three sets. Jacobs wasn’t able to piece together a homerun performance in the third set, losing at the No. 2 spot (4-6, 6-1, 10-3). On the other hand, Muzik came out the other end to clinch the final match and performance in New Orleans before heading back to campus with winning sets of 4-6, 7-6 (0-3), 11-9.

“This spring break was a lot of fun and we were able to get some good practice in,” Jacobs said. “Both of these matches made us work on our focus and ability to stay mentally tough.”

Making her return to competition, Jacobs didn’t have the best matches as she’s had in the beginning of the season where she put up a string of dominant performances at the No. 1 spot. Her last competition was against Buffalo on March 1. 

Jacobs was not medically cleared to compete until three weeks later. With training and a better feel for competition again, Jacobs will be a key player in the upcoming Big Ten matches that await in the next couple of weeks.

“We were able to have Maya back in the lineup, which will be important moving forward,” Ritchie said. “As we go back to Big Ten play, we need to continue to dictate play. It is not good enough to play reactionary tennis.”

From here on out, it’s nothing but Big Ten play for Rutgers. In their third match in a week’s time, the Knights will take on Northwestern at the East Brunswick Racquet Club on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. 

Afterward, Rutgers will quickly pack up its bags and head to Illinois for competition on Friday.

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

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