Another weekend, another pair of Big Ten losses for the Rutgers tennis team this past weekend. The Scarlet Knights (9-10, 1-8) fell to No. 14 Michigan, 4-0, on Saturday and Michigan State, 5-2, on Sunday in a gritty set of matches that left Rutgers on the court for nearly three hours.
Scoring the 2 points for the Knights against the Spartans (15-10, 6-5) were junior Kat Muzik and freshman Tess Fisher with their respectable singles matches.
Muzik was out for blood, and her comeback in the third set proved that all she wanted was a win against Michigan State’s Davina Nguyen, who she faced her freshman year.
“It was nice to get the win this time,” Muzik said. “Going into it, I wanted that revenge a little bit.”
Muzik pushed the match into a third set, but came back around at the end to close off in sets of 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 at the No. 3 spot.
On a neighboring court, Fisher was fighting hard to get the ball rolling with a 6-2 loss in the first set. Luckily, a tight second set left Fisher with enough momentum to outplay the Spartans’ Lauren Lemonds in final sets of 7-5 and 6-4.
“At that point, when it’s that tough and the scores are close, I really just try to fight harder than the other player,” Fisher said. “I know if I can do that, then it’ll turn out well. I just work on that and a lot of intensity and focus.”
Facing the Wolverines (15-5, 11-0), who are undefeated in Big Ten action, Rutgers didn’t let its opponents rankings change its mentality heading into the match.
The Knights started off with a strong doubles performance by freshman Sydney Kaplan and Fisher, defeating Michigan’s Alyvia Jones and Bella Lorenzini in a strong showing of 6-3 at the No. 3 position.
Sophomore Maya Jacobs and Muzik fell to a quick 6-0 doubles match while junior Jaci Cochrane and freshman Kristiana Zahare were only two points away from winning their doubles match in a close 7-6 (4-0) loss to the Wolverines.
The three singles matches that Michigan won left three other matches unfinished due to the scoring of a four-point competition. Jacobs fell 6-0, 6-1 to the Wolverines' Kate Fahey, who is No. 3 in singles action. Fisher was unable to win her No. 2 spot in a 6-4, 6-2 loss as well as Cochrane, who lost 6-2, 6-0 at the No. 5 position.
The lone Rutgers student athlete to win at least one set in singles was Kaplan with a 6-3 victory in the first set, leaving the second set at 1-1.
“Michigan was a very tough team,” said head coach Hilary Ritchie. “We were two points away from getting the doubles point, so that would’ve been good for us. Unfortunately, they were tough in singles. They were a very tough team.”
For its last home meet of the season, the Knights stepped outdoors to take on Michigan State, but didn’t get the outcome that they wanted.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Ritchie said. “Losing the doubles point was critical today. Those of us that won fought really hard and we had opportunities in other spots, but we’ve got to play really offensively in the big points.”
Starting with doubles, Muzik and Jacobs as well as Kaplan and Fisher both fell 6-2 to the Spartans. Cochrane and Zahare left their match unfinished in the lead at 4-3.
Kaplan is a continuous force of nature in Big Ten matches, but this time around, the cards were not in her favor. The Montebello, New York native dropped her first singles match in four outings against Michigan State’s Maja Pietrowicz. Winning the first set 6-4, Kaplan was stuck in a rut the final two sets with a 6-3, 6-1 loss.
A grueling season leaves Rutgers with just two matches left in Indiana. The Knights will take on Indiana on Saturday at 11 a.m. and Purdue on Sunday at noon before they wait to find out if they qualify for the Big Ten tournament the following weekend.
“We fought hard,” Fisher said. “We gave it all that we could. We still have two matches left, so that’s the good thing. Just keep fighting and not give up.”
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