Four Big Ten match wins — that is the amount of victories the Rutgers tennis team has under its belt since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
The Scarlet Knights (9-10, 1-8) have gone three seasons — 2015, 2016 and 2018 — where they remained winless among their conference opponents. Rutgers’ 2017 stint and current season are the best seasons the Knights have played, with two Big Ten wins apiece.
It’s worth noting that head coach Hilary Ritchie’s first season leading Rutgers was in 2017, when the Knights won their first two Big Ten matches in program history. Although Rutgers couldn’t catch a break the following year, the Knights are hitting their stride again with the possibility of adding a third or even fourth victory this season.
Here are the greatest (and only) Big Ten wins in Rutgers’ history.
Penn State (April 2, 2017)
After two entire seasons of remaining winless in the Big Ten, the Knights finally made their name known, securing a conference victory against the Nittany Lions (5-2). Junior Jaci Cochrane teamed up with alumnus Farris Cunningham for a 6-4 win that helped Rutgers get the early doubles point, heading into singles action.
Adding to the Knights' sweep of the top two column spots, junior Kat Muzik came together on the back half of the match to upset Penn State at the No. 4 spot (3-6, 6-2, 6-4) to secure her first Big Ten win in her collegiate career.
Wisconsin (April 21, 2017)
In Rutgers' 2016-2017 season, it raked in another Big Ten win, this time over the Badgers (4-3), who sat at the bottom of the conference. Highlighting the competition was Cochrane, who notched a dominant 6-2, 6-0 singles win at the No. 5 spot and a 6-3 doubles win with Cunningham.
But, the Knights would lose the early lead, not before a comeback time in singles action. Sweeping 4 of the top 5 spots in the column, Muzik recorded her own match win at the No. 4 with another close matchup 7-6 (2-0), 7-6 (3-0), adding to Cochrane’s victory.
Penn State (Feb. 1, 2019)
It wouldn’t be until this season where Rutgers would score its first conference win in almost two years against none other than the Nittany Lions (4-3). The Knights struggled to close their doubles matches and wound up losing the early lead, but came back tough and ready to go in singles.
With a new and improved team, Rutgers claimed the top three spots with sophomore Maya Jacobs controlling her 6-2, 6-4 match at the No. 1 position. Freshman Tess Fisher lost the first set 6-4, but made a huge switch that sent Penn State tripping over its feet with a pair of 6-3s in the final two sets.
Muzik also recharged to nearly win the second set 7-5 and won by retirement during the third set.
Even though the Knights were victorious, the match win isn’t put into the overall conference record since it doesn’t count as part of their Big Ten season. Ritchie said that she could argue otherwise to the Big Ten, if Rutgers had a legitimate shot of making it into the conference tournament at the end of April.
Nebraska (April 7, 2019)
Writing in a second conference win for this season, the Knights edged out the Cornhuskers 4-3 where the doubles point was the key to Rutgers’ victory over the last placed team in the Big Ten.
Jacobs and Muzik claimed the top doubles spot in a 6-4 win to Nebraska while freshman Sydney Kaplan and Fisher added another victory for the 1-0 lead.
Singles action was split where the Knights claimed the No. 2, 3 and 4 spots on the column. The deciding matches came down to the freshmen in their third and final sets. Fisher knows how to close and did so in a final tally of 2-6, 7-6 and 6-3.
On another court, Kaplan went point-for-point to inch past the Huskers in sets of 6-7, 6-4 and 7-5.
Rutgers’ final tune-up will be in Indiana this weekend. If the Knights can perform to the high standards of their Big Ten match wins this season, then they have a shot to come out with a win.
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