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Rutgers starts off season with wins against Army, Drexel

At home and on the road, the Rutgers women's tennis team was able to start off its 2020 season with two wins against Army and Drexel. The Scarlet Knights (2-0) immediately picked up from where they were last year, showing big improvements in their doubles matches.

In the past, Rutgers has struggled to claim the opening doubles point, but last weekend showed that the Knights have developed each of their pairs to compete against their opponents.

Hosting its home opener at the East Brunswick Racquet Club, Rutgers claimed a dominant 6-1 win over the Black Knights (1-2). Just last year, the Knights lost 4-3 to Army at West Point, New York. This time around, it was Rutgers that played well enough in each of its matches for the win.

"Today was really good,” said senior Jaci Cochrane on ScarletKnights.com. “We've been focusing the last two weeks on really high intensity and really high effort. And we brought that intensity every single day to practice, so it was nice that we could also bring it to our first match and get that win.”

For the doubles point, sophomores Tess Fisher and Sydney Kaplan worked together to record a 6-3 win at the No. 2 spot, while junior Maya Jacobs and Cochrane swept the Black Knights 6-0 at the No. 3 spot. Sophomores Sydney Jones and Kristiana Zahare were edged out 5-4 by Army at the No. 1 spot.

In singles play, the Knights won five of their matches, with Fisher claiming a gritty 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 win at the No. 1 spot to lead Rutgers. Kaplan also played to three sets, coming through the back end of her match for a 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.

"The win gives us a lot of confidence moving to the next matches,” Cochrane said. “We're just taking the season match by match. Not focusing on who the opponent is and playing everybody the same way whether it's conference or non-conference."

The following day, the Knights hit the road for a night match against the Dragons (0-1) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Rutgers’ doubles point was crucial for its 4-3 road win.

The Knights competed in the same lineup as they did at home and posted identical scores of 6-4 to sweep doubles competition.

With another strong singles win, Cochrane wiped out her match 6-0, 6-0 for the quick victory at No. 5. Competing in a similar fashion as the day before, Zahare fought hard in the opening set with a 7-5, 6-1 win at No. 6. Jacobs capped off the last singles victory for Rutgers, posting a score of 6-4, 7-5 at the No. 2 spot.

At the top of the lineup, Fisher wasn’t able to outplay Drexel’s Salma Ziouti, falling in straight sets (6-3, 6-3). No. 3 seed Jones played a tough opening set, but couldn’t hold on in the second set (6-7, 2-6). Competing to another third set, Kaplan played a gut-wrenching set to fall just out of reach for the win in sets of 7-5, 4-6, 8-10.

Since the Knights had claimed the doubles point early on in the competition, that point became the deal breaker for Rutgers to take home its first road win of the season.

Notably absent from competition was senior Kat Muzik, who was a key doubles player when paired with Fisher last year.

Up next, the Knights will try to maintain their winning streak with a doubleheader road match in Providence, Rhode Island. Rutgers will compete against Brown on Saturday at noon, followed by a match against Rhode Island on Sunday at noon.

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

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