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Rutgers earns 2nd straight win against Buffalo

Against Buffalo in its second match of the week, the Rutgers tennis team battled through every singles match to come from behind, clinching a 5-2 win on Friday afternoon. 

The Scarlet Knights (5-2) lost the early doubles point against the Bulls (7-3), who have a perfect streak of doubles point wins this season, but collectively put on a strong enough singles performance to run away with the win.

“It was amazing,” said freshman Tess Fisher. “We all had a lot of fight. We didn’t get the doubles point. That can be really important because a lot of teams can go downhill from there, but we turned that around and we made it a positive."

Taking a blow to the No. 1 spot, the duo of junior Kat Muzik and Fisher fell to Buffalo’s Chantal Martinez Blanco and Nikoleta Antoniou-Karademitrou in six straight sets. Team captains sophomore Maya Jacobs and junior Jaci Cochrane won their slot at the No. 2 position for a 6-3 win.

Unfortunately, freshmen Kristiana Zahare and Sydney Kaplan weren’t able to capture the No. 3 spot against the Bull’s Emel Abibula and Hsin-Yuan Shih, falling 3-6 to just miss out on the doubles point.

But Rutgers, with the home court advantage, won all but one singles match against Buffalo.

“It’s a highlight of what we’ve been practicing every day,” Jacobs said. “There’s always going to be adversity. There’s always going to be something that you can’t control, but we can work on the things we can control and that’s fighting for every ball, running for everything and closing out those game points."

And two sets they were. The Knights started things off with a dominant first singles win from Cochrane at the No. 5 spot with sets of 6-1, 6-3.

The Bulls returned with intensity to upset Muzik at the No. 2 position, losing in sets of 5-7 and 3-6.  

Rutgers came back around again and did not let up. Kaplan served up a 7-5, 6-3 win for the No. 4 spot while Jacobs made her mark at the top with a 7-5, 6-2 win against Buffalo's Martinez Blanco.

 With the stakes still high, the freshmen closed out another dual this season with Kaplan and Zahare. Fisher threw out her reel as long as she could and held on to close in two sets of 6-3 and 7-5 for the No. 3 win. Clinching the match came down to Zahare with a solid 6-2, 6-4 win to the Bull’s Sanjana Sudhir.

 Next time out, the Knights head to Maryland to compete against Towson on Friday for a noon match before taking on their first conference matchup against Maryland on Saturday. 

Rutgers previously competed against Big Ten foe Penn State on Feb. 1 at the beginning of the season, but it did not count toward the team's overall conference standing. That will determine who qualifies for the Big Ten Tournament. 

The Tigers (2-5) have racked up three consecutive losses, followed by one win against Hofstra in the past four games. One of the losses was a 6-1 Buffalo win. Likewise, the Terrapins (2-6) have put up their own three-game losing streak to No. 38 Columbia, William & Mary and No. 48 Princeton.

No matter the opponent, the Knights will need to come onto the court being aggressive from the get-go. Especially with the doubles point hanging in the balance, Rutgers has a good grasp on how to return in its singles matches, but also have to worry about closing its doubles matches in the same manner.

The stakes are only getting higher with the team’s goal of making it into the Big Ten Tournament this season.

“Every match is a new opportunity,” Jacobs said. “More so to forget about the ones in the past because they already happened and there’s nothing you can do about them now."

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

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