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Rutgers swept by Northwestern at home

Fresh off of back-to-back wins in New Orleans, the Rutgers tennis team returned to Big Ten competition on the Banks, yesterday afternoon. But, the grueling match schedule may have gotten the best of the Scarlet Knights (8-6, 0-4) when competing against No. 24 Northwestern.

Rutgers fell to a blistering 7-0 to the Wildcats (9-5, 3-0), who wiped the Knights’ courts clean. On the bright side, Rutgers didn’t go down without a fight on its home turf.

“The team competed very hard today,” said head coach Hilary Ritchie. “We put ourselves in chances to play a lot of third sets. Even though we lost, it was a really tight match. Our team is giving the mental and physical energy to compete, but I keep wanting to push to seize their moment.”

In doubles play, the Knights fell to scores of 6-3 to Northwestern at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. The duo of junior Kat Muzik and freshman Tess Fisher lost to the Wildcats' Clarissa Hand and Lee Or. 

On another court, freshmen Kristiana Zahare and Sydney Kaplan weren’t able to cap the last couple of sets to Northwestern's Inci Ogut and Rheeya Doshi.

At the No. 2 seed, team captains sophomore Maya Jacobs and junior Jaci Cochrane were battling it out, but didn’t get to finish their match with the Wildcats in the lead 5-4.

Facing a top-25 nationally ranked team is difficult enough, but during doubles play Rutgers really showed the changes that were being made to put it in a better position heading into its singles matches.

“When we have game points, we just need to really step up to the ball and capitalize on those,” Ritchie said. “That’s what we keep talking to them about.”

At the No. 2 position, Muzik lost early at the start of her match to Northwestern's Julie Byrne in dominating sets of 6-1, 6-3.

Cochrane hurt early on in first set of her match 6-3, but rallied on the second set to see if she could squeeze by the Wildcats. But, that wasn’t the case this time around, and she got outplayed in the second 7-5.

Jacobs lost momentum at the back half of her match, falling to Northwestern's No. 1 seed Clarissa Hand. Jacobs stormed away with the first set 6-4, but took a really big blow in the second set, losing 6-0. 

In the third set, Jacobs wasn’t able to get a hold of Hand’s control of the ball and lost her final set 6-3.

The Wildcats had the slight edge over sophomore Isabelle Da Silva for the early 7-6 lead. Da Silva was making an early comeback at the start of the second set 2-1 before their match came to an abrupt end, giving the default point to Northwestern.

Down 5-0 to the Wildcats, it was up to the freshmen to seal their matches and get the Knights on the scoring board.

Fisher came up short in her first set to Or 6-4, but showed the meaning of what it means to be a Rutgers athlete by taking the second set 6-2. Trying to an establish an early lead in the third set didn’t pan out, and Fisher spent the rest of the match playing catch up. She ultimately lost the final set 6-4.

Similarly at the No. 4 spot, Kaplan lost her first set 6-2 to Northwestern's Caroline Pozo, who hadn’t competed in doubles. Even though Pozo had a ton of energy in the tank, it was Kaplan who came through in the second set by a hair to win 7-5. 

In another third set that looked all too similar to Fisher’s final play, Kaplan fell 6-4 to the Wildcats to close out the competition. 

The Knights don't seem to get a break this season with their hectic schedule out of spring break. Flying out the following day, Rutgers is heading to Champaign, Illinois to serve up against No. 36 Illinois on Friday at noon.

“Obviously, we have a fast turnaround for our Illinois match on Friday,” Ritchie said. “We’re making sure they’re taking care of their bodies, so that they’re ready to bring out some energy and effort and get some wins on the court against Illinois.”

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

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