Jan. 30, 2005
The University of Illinois women's tennis team missed out on a chance to capture its first win in the all-time series against the Tennessee Volunteers, falling, 4-3, Sunday afternoon at the UI Atkins Tennis Center. The loss, suffered two days after a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the 30th-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons, drops the Illini to 2-2 this season.
"They really, really improved their play from the previous match against Wake Forest," said Illini Head Coach Sujay Lama of his players. "It's disappointing, no doubt, to not get the win, but that's the way it goes. It was a great, great weekend from the standpoint of getting a feel of where we are at this point in the year. We had to play against two tough teams. Tennessee never gives you the point. You have to take it from them. Over the years I have a lot of respect for them because they compete so well. I thought we stayed toe-to- toe with them. We just came up short by a little bit."
Illinois clung tightly to a 1-0 lead against the 18th-ranked Volunteers after the hosts won two of three doubles matches. Momentum carried over, as Cynthya Goulet, Macall Harkins, Brianna Knue and Emily Wang each won the first sets of their singles matches. Both Goulet (at No. 1) and Harkins (at No. 2) fought back from second-set deficits, eventually winning their matches with scores of 6-2, 7-6 and 6-3, 7-6. Conversely, Wang managed only one second-set point, losing her match, 6-4, 1-6, 2-6 to Tennessee's Ashley Robards. Knue battled but did little better against UT's Vicky Jones, falling 6-0, 4-6, 1-6 in the afternoon's deciding contest.
Lama said the team started well but got ahead of itself, allowing the Volunteers to get back into the match.
"It was a combination of things," said the seventh-year head coach. "We were trying to finish up instead of working our point like we did in the first set, and we were getting too anxious. A good team like Tennessee, they're going to make adjustments. They knew that they were down a point. They knew that they were down in a lot of sets. We have to do a better job of countering their adjustments and really closing the door. We had them buried. You just can't bury them halfway. They're going to come back."
When asked if he thought the pressure overwhelmed Knue in the deciding match, Lama offered, "Bri really loves that. She thrives in that situation. It just came down to execution. She got off to a bad start in the third set. She dug a big hole. You can't do that against good teams, good players. It's a catch-up situation. We weren't able to use the home crowd and the momentum in the third set because she was behind so much so fast," Lama said.
Things had started out better for the junior from Western Springs, Ill. She and Harkins won their 14th doubles match in 17 tries, two days after having lost an 8-6 decision to Wake Forest's top team. The pair, ranked 54th by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), have been alternating playing in the No. 1 and 2 spots with Goulet and Wang. Goulet and Wang won for the second time this weekend, dominating UT's 51st-ranked combo of Robards and Sabita Maharaj, 8-1, in the No. 2 tilt.
Lama noted improvement from Friday to Sunday but was unwilling to simply brush off the loss.
"It was a little bit of a lack of experience. At the same time, we've had four matches. There have been a lot of situations where we've had opportunities to learn. We just can't always say `Oh well, let's learn from this loss.' Now we just have to make sure that we get better with our strengths, as well as weaknesses."
The Fighting Illini continue their home stand next weekend with a pair of Sunday matches against Illinois State (11 a.m.) and Illinois-Chicago (4 p.m.).
1 Cynthya Goulet/Emily Wang (ILL) def. #51 Ashley Robards/Sabita Maharaj (UT) 8-1 2 #54 Brianna Knue/Macall Harkins(ILL) def. Melissa Schaub/Ghizela Schutte (UT) 8-5 3 Blakeley Griffith/Bryce Marable(UT) def. Alejandra Cuadra/Momei Qu (ILL) 8-4
1 #111 Cynthya Goulet (ILL) def. #51 Sabita Maharaj (UT) 6-2, 7-6(7) 2 Macall Harkins (ILL def. Bryce Marable (UT) 6-3, 7-6 3 Blakely Griffith (UT) def. Momei Qu (ILL) 6-2, 6-0 4 Vicky Jones (UT) def. Brianna Knue (ILL) 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 5 Melissa Schaub (UT) def. Alejandra Cuadra (ILL) 6-4, 6-3 6 Ashley Robards (UT) def. Emily Wang (ILL) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2