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Rutgers splits weekend trip in Midwest

The Rutgers tennis team captured its first Big Ten road win this past weekend against Nebraska on Sunday, but was unable to defeat Iowa on Friday. 

With four conference matches left, the Scarlet Knights (9-8, 1-6) only have four more opportunities to put themselves higher up on the rankings to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament at the end of this month.

Leading Rutgers in the Midwest was true freshman Sydney Kaplan, who went undefeated in competition with two singles and doubles victories. The Montebello, New York native marked her third-straight Big Ten singles win and 10th win of the season.

In doubles action, the Knights switched up their pairings this weekend with sophomore Maya Jacobs and junior Kat Muzik going in as the No. 1 seed. Instead of playing one set, Jacobs and Muzik played two against the Hawkeyes' (12-8, 4-4) Elise Van Heuvelen and Ashleigh Jacobs. But the Rutgers duo lost their match 6-1, 6-3.

Junior Jaci Cochrane and true freshman Kristiana Zahare were unable to capture their doubles match, falling 6-4 to Iowa’s Samantha Mannix and Danielle Bauers.

Coming away with a 6-3 win, the true freshmen duo Tess Fisher and Kaplan defeated the Hawkeyes' Sophie Clark and Cloe Ruette at the No. 3 slot. 

Kaplan was on a roll this weekend, claiming the lone singles victory for the Knights against Iowa. Starting off the first set, Kaplan lost 6-3, but managed to rally on the back half of her match in sets of 7-6, 1-0 (6-0).

The only other teammate to compete in a third set was sophomore Isabelle Da Silva, who lost the first set 6-4, then won the second set with the same mark. But Da Silva fell through the final push with a 1-0 (3-0) loss to just miss out on the No. 6 spot.

Rutgers' Midwest adventure continued in Lincoln, Nebraska where the Knights edged the Cornhuskers (9-15, 1-7) by one point.

Keeping up with her momentum from the last match against the Hawkeyes, Kaplan won her doubles match with Fisher, 6-3 to Nebraska at the No. 3 position. 

Putting together a similar singles match as the last time out, Kaplan lost the first set 7-6 before coming through the back half of her match to defeat the Huskers’ Marina Cozac in sets of 6-4, 7-5 at the No. 4 spot. 

Contributing to Rutgers’ win against Nebraska, Fisher claimed the No. 2 spot with a comeback performance in sets of 2-6, 7-6, 6-3. Muzik ran away with a 6-3, 6-0 win at the No. 3 position.

"Today was a team effort. We came out hungry and ready to play," Kaplan said, according to scarletknights.com. "Our energy was great and we all fought to the very end. I'm so grateful that I could clinch for my team, I couldn't have done it without their support!"

The Knights' win against the Huskers was needed if they want any shot at the Big Ten Tournament as Nebraska ranks last in the conference. Rutgers needs some stellar performances, especially when the team competes at home, to be considered for the tournament.

Additionally, switching up the doubles pairs for the back half of the season could be a last-minute strategy to try and claim the doubles points. The Knights know how to come back in their singles matches, but going in with the early lead is crucial in defeating their Big Ten opponents.

Next up, Rutgers has a Big Ten double header on the Banks at the outdoor tennis complex in Piscataway. The Knights will compete against Michigan on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. before they take on Michigan State the following day at 11:00 a.m.

Rutgers has some extremely tough competition coming its way. The Wolverines (13-4, 9-0) are atop the leaderboard and are looking to maintain their undefeated streak throughout the conference. 

The Spartans (4-5, 13-10) are No. 7 in the Big Ten and will compete against Maryland on Friday before competing against the Knights on Sunday.

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

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