The Rutgers women’s tennis team enters the 2004 fall season with high expectations, due in large part to a spring season that saw it win 13 matches and advance to the BIG EAST Championships in Coral Gables, FL. Aided by the return of five upperclassmen and bolstered by three talented freshmen, the Scarlet Knights begin their ambitious fall schedule on Friday, Sept. 10 at the Cornell Invitational.
“We have an excellent mix of freshmen and upperclassmen,” said Bucca. “The returning players are coming off a successful season, and that should give them plenty of confidence as we begin the new year. I expect that we will be competitive throughout the lineup in every match and thus will have great potential to continue in our development.”
Among the returning talent is just one senior – Helen Magomedova (Brooklyn, NY). The junior class includes Alina Balasa (East Brunswick, NJ), Jill Markowitz (Forest Hills, NY) and Ketevan Shmakova (Dover, NJ). Lauren Edelschein (Medford Lakes, NJ) saw extensive action as a freshmen and is the only sophomore on this year's squad. The three newest Scarlet Knights are Katrina Elder-Bush (Boston, MA), Anela Dujsic (Mississauga, Ontario) and Michaela Brailsford (Auburndale, MA).
The fall schedule will change the Scarlet Knights from the outset, highlighted by the USTA Invitational, which takes place at the National Tennis Center in Forest Hills, NY. RU will also compete in the Brown Invitational, which is widely regarded as the premier fall event on the East Coast.
“We have a very demanding fall schedule, but that gives us the opportunity to compete against the finest schools in the East as well as the nation,” said Bucca. “This puts our program where it belongs both on a regional and national level.”
As Bucca continues to build the Rutgers program, he does so with the vision to make the Scarlet Knights a regional and national power while recruiting student-athletes who excel both in the classroom and on the tennis court.
“This program is clearly on the move to the next level,” said Bucca. “The players’ goal is to become one of the premiere teams in the BIG EAST and achieve ITA All-Academic honors. These are goals only a few teams will achieve, but we’re going to achieve it sooner rather than later.”
With his first full off-season devoted to recruiting, Bucca brought in three players he believes will fit into the RU program immediately. And while he looks for student-athletes who are exceptional athletes, he also understands the importance of academic achievement.
“We want players who love to play the game and want to be challenged as athletes as well as students,” said Bucca. “It’s my goal to provide an environment to challenge them but never losing focus that playing tennis should be fun. Our focus in on individual improvement, improved fitness and team community and culture.”