Rutgers begins season at Princeton Invitational
Just 13 short days following the U.S. Open women's final, head coach Hilary Ritchie commenced her fourth season at the helm of the Rutgers tennis program. The Scarlet Knights embarked on a short drive down U.S. Route 1 to Princeton for a three-day tournament hosted by the Tigers, at the Lenz Tennis Center.
The fall season, for Rutgers, serves as an opportunity for fine-tuning singles and doubles action ahead of the spring season, comprised of both Big Ten and non-conference play. Last spring, the Knights went 9-12 overall, a season where it achieved its best victory mark since its inception into the Big Ten in 2014.
This past weekend, Rutgers' lineup competed against Cornell, UPenn and the host institution, Princeton. The Knights also competed against two former Big East opponents in Syracuse and Temple.
The invitational saw Rutgers, the lone Big Ten school, advance several student athletes within the singles and doubles bracket. Most notably, sophomore Tess Fisher won the consolation round out of the Boonswang draw.
Fisher, the No. 7 seed in the bracket, had fallen to the Orange's Sofya Treshcheva in the opening round, 6-4, 6-2. She then moved on to the consolation bracket where she faced a challenge from the Owls' Stefaniya Surikova, winning the first set 7-6(1) and hanging on 6-3 in the final set.
This set up a rematch with Treshcheva in the consolation championship. Fisher dropped the first set 2-6, but rebounded in the second set, 6-3 (10-6) to capture the top spot in the consolation bracket.
The Quakers' Sonia Tartakovsky captured Fisher's bracket's title, beating Treshcheva in the semifinal round, before topping the Tigers' Grace Joyce in two sets in the championship round.
In the Jadwin draw, senior Jaci Cochrane, one of two seniors on the team, fell to the Princeton's Tiffany Chen 6-3 in the first set, but kept the second set tight within one point. She would go on to lose 7-6 in the final set.
In the consolation bracket, Cochrane, who finished last season with eight singles victories, captured the first set against Temple's Yining Tian 1-6, but lost 6-2 in the second set and 7-6(3) in the match-winning set.
Going into this first fall invitational, the Knights' strength was when their players paired up in doubles. The team went 23-29 overall in the 2018-19 season.
On the opening day of the Princeton Invitational, Rutgers took four doubles wins. Sophomore Sydney Jones and senior Kat Muzik took down the Tigers' Brianna Shvets and Grace Joyce 6-4 on Friday. The doubles match was Jones' first outing in a scarlet uniform, after transferring from Texas Tech.
Muzik, last season, was paired with Fisher. The duo compiled a 7-5 overall and 1-3 Big Ten record, this past season.
This time, Fisher was paired with sophomore Sydney Kaplan. The pair of second years took down Princeton's Tiffany Chen and Maia Sung, 6-4. Kaplan and Fisher have some familiarity with one another, going 4-2 as a freshman duo last season.
Kaplan was also paired with junior Isabelle Da Silva. In singles, Kaplan captured a 12-8 record as a freshman.
Da Silva and sophomore Kristiana Zahare won 6-3 against the Tigers' Jayme Leschly and Michelle Sorokko. Zahare and Da Silva went 3-2 in matches that the two were paired in last season. Zahare was also paired with Kaplan five times last season, winning two of them.
The Knights will be back in action in two weeks, as the team heads to West Point, New York, for the Army Invitational on Sept. 27. The last time Rutgers and Army competed against each other was in a dual match this past February. The Knights lost a close 4-3 match to the Black Knights.
"Our team implemented more aggressive doubles play and stayed consistent from the baseline," Richie said. "We were especially tough in singles. Our players were able to turn around deficits in several matches.
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