Leigh Finnegan rallied back to defeat Brittany Wowchuk, 0-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Feb. 26, 2010
URBANA, Ill. - Ready to battle right from the start, the No. 39 Illini women's tennis team (3-6, 0-1 Big Ten) gave 11-time Big Ten champion and second-ranked Northwestern (9-1, 1-0 Big Ten) all it could handle Friday night, but ultimately dropped a 5-2 decision at Atkins Tennis Center. With the win, the Wildcats extend their streak against conference opponents to 78 straight matches.
"They're the No. 2 team in the country and we were right there with them," head coach Michelle Dasso said. "Even after we lost the doubles point, I still believed we could win it. I knew the girls would continue to battle and we have to take away a lot of confidence from this match. They showed great energy right from the start and it's disappointing because we came so close. They really wanted it. Overall, there's a lot of good things to take away from this match, so we'll just need to re-group and re-focus before Sunday's match against Harvard, because they're a talented team as well. I'd also like to give a huge thanks to all the fans who came out and supported us."
All three Illini doubles tandems got off to solid starts, as Marisa Lambropoulos and Breanne Smutko raced out to a 3-0 lead and Chelcie Abajian and Rachael White went ahead 3-1 to capture some momentum early on. Megan Fudge and Leigh Finnegan went back and forth with Northwestern's No. 14 duo of Lauren Lui and Elena Chernyakova, before finally pulling away with an 8-4 victory. Abajian and White took a 7-5 lead late in the match, but the Wildcat team of Maria Mosolova and Linda Abu-Mushrefova rallied back to even the score at 7 apiece and eventually took an 8-7 advantage before the Illini forced a tiebreaker at 8-all. The tiebreaker proved to be every bit as exciting, with each team refusing to back down, but the Wildcats were able to outlast the Illini, winning the set 9-8 (13-11) to claim the match. Lambropoulos and Smutko also had an opportunity to clinch the match after going up 7-6 against No. 21 Samantha Murray and Kate Turvy, but another 8-8 set was decided by a tiebreaker and Northwestern again prevailed, 9-8 (7-1) to win the doubles point.
That momentum carried over into singles, as the Wildcats won in straight sets at the Nos. 3 and 6 positions to take a 3-0 lead and No. 29 Murray clinched the victory with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over No. 85 White. Though the outcome was already decided, Finnegan hung on to claim her second straight match after rallying back from a 6-0 defeat in the first set to take the next two over Brittany Wowchuk, 6-2, 6-4, and Lambropoulos picked up her eighth win in nine matches over No. 108 Turvy, 5-7, 6-3, 1-0 (10-5). Closing out the night was Fudge and No. 12 Mosolova, who gave the crowd quite a show at the top spot. Fudge jumped on top in the first set, 7-5, before Mosolova evened the score in the second set, 6-2, and went on to win the tiebreaker, 1-0 (10-8).
The Illini are back at Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday to host No. 53 Harvard at noon.
#2 Northwestern 5, #39 Illinois 2
1. #12 Maria Mosolova (NU) def. Megan Fudge (ILL) 5-7, 6-2, 1-0 (10-8)
2. #29 Samantha Murray (NU) def. #85 Rachael White (ILL) 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
3. Lauren Lui (NU) def. Chelcie Abajian (ILL) 6-4, 6-2
4. Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) def. #108 Kate Turvy (NU) 5-7, 6-3, 1-0 (10-5)
5. Leigh Finnegan (ILL) def. Brittany Wowchuk (NU) 0-6, 6-2, 6-4
6. Stacey Lee (NU) def. Breanne Smutko (ILL) 6-2, 6-2
1. Leigh Finnegan/Megan Fudge (ILL) def. #14 Lauren Lui/Elena Chernyakova (NU) 8-4
2. Maria Mosolova/Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) def. Chelcie Abajian/Rachael White (ILL) 9-8 (13-11)
3. #21 Samantha Murray/Kate Turvy (NU) def. Marisa Lambropoulos/Breanne Smutko (ILL) 9-8 (7-1)
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (6,3,2,5,4,1)