Tennis: Pitt falls in Big East Championship, remains winless against Rutgers

By Lauren Kirschman

Pitt just can’t find a way to beat Rutgers.

The women’s tennis team lost to… Pitt just can’t find a way to beat Rutgers.

The women’s tennis team lost to the Scarlet Knights 4-0 in the first round of the Big East tournament this weekend, then fell to St. John’s in the consolation round to finish the season at 10-9.

Head coach George Dieffenbach said the Panthers entered the season with three goals: finish with a winning record, get to the post-season and the Big East Championship and improve upon their showing in the tournament from last season, when the team finished seventh.

“We didn’t improve upon our finish from last season, and we’re disappointed in that, but the team showed a lot of improvement throughout the year,” Dieffenbach said. “They were very competitive.”

Pitt lost the doubles point against Rutgers, with the pairs of Gabrielle Catanzariti and Sabrina Visram and Adela Aprodu and Karma Parbhu each falling 8-1. Elizabeth Adams and Shannon Benic didn’t finish because the point was already decided.

“Rutgers is a very good team,” Dieffenbach said. “They are a smart team, consistent as well as aggressive and offensive. We knew we would have our hands full as we did before. We gave them a good match before, and we fought them tough this time also.”

Pitt dropped three matches in singles, which sealed the victory for Rutgers. Adams, Benic and Visram didn’t finish their matches because Rutgers already secured the four points needed for a victory.

“Benic’s match was very close, especially in the second set.” Dieffenbach said. “Visram was in her match, as well. It could have gone either way.”

Adams lost her first set 5-7, but was up 5-0 on Amy Zhang when the match was stopped. Despite the fact that she didn’t finish, Dieffenbach said the score with Zhang this time was “a nice turnaround” for Adams.

Adams fell 6-0, 6-2 to Zhang earlier this season.

“She started to figure out how to play [Zhang],” Dieffenbach said. “She was matching up some of her strengths with Zhang’s weaknesses.”

Aprodu fell 6-1, 6-2 to Jennifer Holzberg. Maryana Milchutskey defeated Catanzariti 6-4, 6-1, while Parbhu fell to Caitlin Baker 6-1, 6-0.

The Panthers have never defeated Rutgers. They lost 7-0 to the Scarlet Knights earlier this season.

In the consolation match, the Panthers met up with St. John’s, a team they beat 4-3 on April 17. This weekend, Pitt fell 4-0 to the Red Storm during the rematch.

Once again, the Panthers lost the doubles point quickly, with the teams of Adams and Benic and Aprodu and Parbhu each falling 9-7. Catanzariti and Visram didn’t finish their match.

“We had leads in both of the doubles matches we lost,” Dieffenbach said. “It’s tough to lose that doubles point. It swung the momentum in favor of St. John’s.”

In singles play, only three of the matches finished, enough to clinch the match for the Red Storm.

Catanzariti fell 6-0, 6-4 to Jenny Yonkus, Visram lost 6-2, 7-5 to Ksenia Mikhaylova, and Parbhu lost to Nakita Austin 6-2, 6-2.

“There were a lot of tough matches,” Dieffenbach said. “The Panthers went down swinging, they went down aggressive.”

Adams was voted the Most Valuable Player by her teammates. She finished the season with the best record on the team in both singles (15-10) and doubles (13-8), along with her partner Benic.

“That’s quite a lot of leadership she gave the team,” Dieffenbach said. “She was also a leader vocally in terms of motivation.”

Dieffenbach said she made progress throughout her junior year. She’s steadily improved since she came here, he said, and she became a more offensive player, a better server, and a better returner.

“She’s really developed her weapons,” Dieffenbach said.

The Panthers lose starting seniors Benic and Visram to graduation this season, but Dieffenbach said that the players who come back will work on fundamentals and being more consistent and that the team will continue to improve.

“We have a good nucleus returning,” he said. “We’ll have a very strong team again next year, another team of hard workers and a team that gives 100 percent for Pitt.”