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Rutgers splits weekend pair of matches

Competing in a pair of matches over the weekend, the Rutgers tennis team fell 5-2 to Maryland in its Big Ten opener on Friday but came back around for a clutch 4-3 win against Penn the following day.

The Scarlet Knights (6-2, 0-1) started things off in doubles play, as junior Maya Jacobs and senior Kat Muzik were the only pair that defeated the Terrapins (6-3) at the No. 3 spot. Without any other Rutgers pairs able to beat Maryland, the Knights couldn’t close out the doubles point.

Heading into singles play, sophomore Sydney Kaplan and senior Jaci Cochrane were the only players that came away with match wins for Rutgers. At the No. 4 spot, Kaplan dominated her match with a 6-1, 6-1 win over the Terrapins' Vera Markovic. Coming through with a win at the end of the lineup was Cochrane, defeating Maryland's Saya Usui 6-1, 6-3. 

Cochrane and Kaplan are the only two Knights that have won six consecutive singles matches. Cochrane is undefeated in singles play, while Kaplan has one loss since the start of the season.

Jacobs and sophomore Sydney Jones both competed to a third set, but neither were able to finish off their respective matches. Jacobs suffered a tight 6-7 (2-7) loss in the first set, returned in the second set for a 6-2 win, but struggled in the final set to fall 0-6. Jones also dropped the first set 2-6 but rallied back to take a 6-2 win in the second set. Unfortunately for her team, Jones had a defining 1-6 blow by the end of the third set.

“Maryland competed well, and I thought we competed really well in singles," said head coach Hilary Ritchie. "This team is working incredibly hard and they're putting themselves in great situations. They just need to be confident and go for it."

Competing against the Quakers (3-5), Rutgers did not let up until it finished with a win. The Knights weren’t able to secure the early doubles point, but came together competing in singles to edge out Penn.

"I couldn't be prouder of our effort today. To come back and fight in singles the way they did was just tremendous," Ritchie said. "Then for Cochrane to step up and have all the pressure on her in the third set, it just showed how brave they're getting and how confident they are. Hopefully we can continue that into the rest of our season."

Posting the only doubles victories against the Quakers, Jacobs and Muzik claimed their second doubles victory over the weekend with a crushing 6-0 win. Even with the win, it wasn’t enough to seal the early lead for Rutgers heading into singles play.

The Knights’ first singles win came from sophomore Kristiana Zahare at the No. 6 spot in a 6-4, 6-2 victory. Jacobs closed her match with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win at No. 2.

What followed was a pair of third-set match wins from Kaplan and Cochrane. Kaplan may have fallen short in her second set, but pulled through with a victory to tie up the score 3-3 against Penn. 

Cochrane had a slow start in her first set, falling 3-6, but scraped her way back toward the end of the match 7-6 (7-1), 7-5 to clinch the win for Rutgers.

“It's always very difficult after losing the doubles point, and we went down in a couple matches (singles) pretty quickly," Cochrane said. "It wasn't me. I wasn't the first one (to win), I had Kristiana, Sydney and Maya. We had some big wins, and that boost helped me with the momentum. They started it and then I gladly finished it."

Another two home matches await the Knights at the East Brunswick Racquet Club. Rutgers will compete at 12:30 p.m against Seton Hall on Friday and against Nebraska on Feb. 26 in its second Big Ten competition.

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

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