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Season ends with USF sweep in second round

(04/25/10 4:00am)

A 4-0 loss to South Florida in the Big East tournament closed the curtain on the Rutgers tennis team's 2010 season. The Scarlet Knights were bulled over on Friday in the second round of the tourney in South Bend, Ind., as a predominately successful spring reached a disappointing conclusion. The Knights finish the year with a record of 14-8. But unlike last season, the team failed to advance beyond the second day of the tournament and must settle for a one-win postseason. That victory came on Thursday, when Rutgers pounded Pittsburgh 4-0 in round one. Less than a month removed from a 7-0 defeat in Piscataway, the Panthers were once again dismantled at the hands of the Knights. However, the thrill of yet another pummeling of Pittsburgh was short-lived. Just 24 hours after the win, Rutgers was again involved in a shutout match — though this time, it was on the wrong end of the equation. The talented No. 24 South Florida squad was able to stay ahead of the Knights throughout the contest and cruised to a conference win. Rutgers assistant coach Alex Arlak feels her team had a shot at earning a victory before USF shifted into high gear. "We competed well against South Florida," Arlak said. "They were definitely vulnerable in some places and we came close to using that to our advantage. But they are a very talented team and were able to take it to us in the end." Friday's defeat is the latest in a series of losses against ranked opponents. Rutgers has never beaten a nationally ranked team and the Bulls made sure that trend continued. "It was a disappointment to lose in the second round," Arlak said. "We have trouble getting over that hump and beating teams that are highly ranked. It's something that this program needs to work on and it's important if we want to keep moving forward." Sophomore singles player Jen Holzberg echoed her coach's sentiments when looking back on the match. "Part of it is frustrating because you always want to finally beat a top ranked team," Holzberg said. "But it also motivates us to work hard so that we can do it next year." "I feel like we did have a very good chance of beating South Florida. I know they were ranked very highly but we were neck and neck with them most of the way. The match was a lot closer than the score shows and we can take some positives out of it." Despite the lopsided decision, Rutgers saw some highly contentious matches against USF. Holzberg took USF's Melissa Koning to a first-set tiebreaker before losing in the No. 2 singles slot, while junior ace Amy Zhang and senior Katherine Arlak each fought hard through tough defeats. Arlak, a team captain who played her final match in scarlet on Friday, said her last Big East tournament was bittersweet. "I think we did play pretty well," she said. "We beat Pitt the way we expected to and we were definitely happy about that. Unfortunately, we lost to a good USF team and that was frustrating. We would have liked to move on to the next round but it didn't happen." The Bulls' win would be the last of their season. USF was beaten 4-0 on Saturday by DePaul, who squared off with tournament host No.5 Notre Dame yesterday in the conference championship. The Irish pummeled the Blue Demons 4-0 to win the Big East crown in front of their home crowd.

RU handles Johnnies in home match

(04/15/10 4:00am)

 The Rutgers tennis team got back on track yesterday afternoon with a 5-2 victory over Big East adversary St. John's. The win allows Rutgers to put last weekend's disappointing matches in the rear-view mirror as it closes out the regular season. Playing in front of a solid crowd, the Scarlet Knights reversed their Big East fortunes and strengthened their case for a quality seed in the conference's postseason tournament. The team was well aware of the importance of yesterday's contest, said sophomore Morgan Ivey. "St. John's has given us trouble in the past," Ivey said. "It was really crucial for us to win in the Big East and go into the tournament with a strong record." Saturday's home match against West Virginia is the Knight's regular season finale. The team's tussle with the Johnnies was crucial for its tourney resume. Hoping to lock up a top six seed in the field of 12, Rutgers needed to play sharp throughout the match. St. John's was no lightweight and did not go away quietly into the night. Many of the Knights' singles players were saddled with tough, lengthy matches. Add the fact that it was unseasonably warm, and the makings of a physically draining afternoon are born. Team ace junior Amy Zhang fell behind early before regaining her momentum and earning another victory. Sophomore Leonora Slatnick fell victim to a heart-wrenching loss that lasted well after her teammates finished playing. Slatnick's loss means the Texan's ten match unbeaten streak is history. However, she believes the defeat will not have lasting effects for her or the team. "I'm just going to keep taking it one match at a time," Slatnick said. "You've got to move on whether you win or lose. Now that we're at the end of the season, I think we're ready for the Big East tournament. That's what we play for. We've been playing pretty well and there's not much more we can do to prepare. " Sophomore Maryana Milchutskey, the Knights' No. 4 singles player, feels that success in the Big East is vital. "We started off pretty bad losing 7-0 to Syracuse," she said. "But after that we realized that every Big East match is really important and we've been playing really well. Hopefully we can continue to do that." Milchutskey earned a win against the Red Storm and is one of the Knights' most consistent players this season. Her play could be an X-factor for Rutgers in the tournament if she continues to flourish in the fourth spot. "I bring a focus to every match and try to play hard," Milchutskey said. "I guess I've been lucky too and winning." Rutgers is approaching the finish line of the 2010 season that began nearly three months ago. The Knights played in 19 matches over that time. They fought hard to win 12 of those and Ivey believes the team has more fight in it despite the growing fatigue that comes with a long season. "I think the season has taken a toll on us physically and mentally, but I think it makes us stronger to stick together through the end."

Red Storm offer chance for rebound

(04/14/10 4:00am)

Last weekend the Rutgers tennis team faced defeat at the hands of Big East foes Marquette and No. 26 DePaul. The Scarlet Knights have the opportunity to pick themselves back up when they host St. John's today in a 2 p.m. match.Rutgers (11-7, 5-3) could do no wrong for the better part of March and April, but the Knights were outscored by a total of 12-2 in back-to-back matches in Milwaukee over the weekend.