Sophomore Kristina Minor pushes Illinois past No. 34 Ohio State, 4-3, in the Big Ten quarterfinals.
April 25, 2008
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Illinois women's tennis team was looking for its second straight upset over the No. 34 Ohio State Buckeyes, and got just that as it came from behind in singles to score a 4-3 win over OSU today in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The Illini fell behind early after losing the doubles point, but key wins from the singles lineup, including a clinching victory from sophomore Kristina Minor at No. 5 singles - her fifth of the season - proved to be the final dagger. The triumph propels Illinois into the Big Ten semifinals for the first time since 2003 where they will face No. 1-seeded and ranked Northwestern, who was a 4-0 winner over Minnesota early today.
"This is the reason why you are a coach because of these exciting moments," head coach Michelle Dasso said. "I am just extremely proud of the girls and their play today. It has been a total team effort all season long. Going into every match, I have never known where we are going to get our points. This team just fights and supports one another. When one player is down, another one picks it up and pulls out a big win. We have done that all year long and find ways of just taking care of business."
The Illini stumbled early to start off their match against the Buckeyes, as OSU quickly took a 1-0 lead with a pair of wins in doubles to take the pivotal point. In fact, when Illinois had defeated Ohio State in their regular season upset, it was the doubles point that proved the deciding factor, with Illinois earning the point in that dual. However, if Illinois was looking to take another key win off the Buckeyes, they were going to have to do it in singles as Ohio State scored victories at No. 2 and 3 doubles to seal the point.
In singles, Ohio State applied the pressure again as they stole another win at No. 4 singles to take a 2-0 lead and move one win away from running off with a quarterfinal victory. However, as coach Dasso had predicted and promised, Illinois was not going down without a fight in every point on every court.
Redshirt freshman Leigh Finnegan (ILL) then led the charge, as she won a tight opening set, 7-6(5), on court two, before tallying a break in the second to win the match, 6-4, over Angela DiPastina (OSU). With work still to be done, the tides began to turn when freshman Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) tied the contest at 2-all with her straight-sets win over Julie Blackmore (OSU), 6-2, 6-4, at No. 3 singles. If history had anything to say about that victory, since the Illini are a perfect 7-0 when winning at the three singles slot, then the future for Illinois was looking bright.
"Leigh just dug deep today in her match and really played a solid opponent and was still able to post a straight-sets win," Dasso said about her No. 2 singles player. "Then for Marisa to take down an opponent who she lost to in the regular season was huge. She has continued to show her maturity with every match that she plays."
While Illinois was not going to look at the past to decide its fate, sophomore Megan Fudge (ILL) took the contest into her own hands when Illinois took the lead for the first time, 3-2, when she smoked Paloma Escobedo (OSU), 6-2, 6-4, in the top slot.
"Megan is just a work horse," Dasso continued. "You can always count on her to go out and leave everything on the court, and she did that again today against a very well prepared and good Ohio State opponent."
Ohio State briefly stopped the Illini train from completely running away with the victory when it tallied a win at No. 6 singles, but the damage was already down on court five, as Minor (ILL) was up 4-2 in the third frame after leveling her match, 7-6(5) in the second. With the momentum all on Illinois' side, Minor polished off the win when she claimed the third and decisive set, 6-2.
"Kristina has been clutch for us all season long," Dasso said about the sophomore. "Kristina was down 4-0 in the second set tiebreaker and was able to remain composed and come back to win that match. She was huge today."
Illinois now is set to face Big Ten regular season champion and the top-ranked team in the country in Northwestern tomorrow in the semifinals. While the task is a tall mountain to climb, Illinois has already accomplished a feat by almost guaranteeing their entry into the NCAA Tournament with their upset of the Buckeyes in the quarterfinals today.
Illinois' match against Northwestern is set for a 9 a.m. CT, 10 a.m. ET, start at the Schwartz Tennis Center on Saturday, April 26. Live scoring is available for the match at www.purduesports.com, while a full recap of the match will be available on the official home of Illinois women's tennis at www.fightingillini.com.
#43 UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS vs. #34 OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
4/25/2008 AT WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. (SCHWARTZ TENNIS CENTER)
#43 UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 4, #34 OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY 3
1. Megan Fudge (ILL) def. Paloma Escobedo (OSU) - 6-2, 6-4
2. Leigh Finnegan (ILL) def. Angela DiPastina (OSU) - 7-6, 6-4
3. Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) def. Julie Blackmore (OSU) - 6-2, 6-4
4. Cami Hubbs (OSU) def. Shivani Davé (ILL) - 6-2, 6-1
5. Kristina Minor (ILL) def. Christina Keesey (OSU) - 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-2
6. Caitlin O'Keefe (OSU) def. Momei Qu (ILL) - 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
1. Megan Fudge / Shivani Davé (ILL) vs. Angela DiPastina (OSU) - 4-7 UF
2. Julie Blackmore / Cami Hubbs (OSU) def. Leigh Finnegan / Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) - 8-4
3. Paloma Escobedo / Caitlin O'Keefe (OSU) def. Kristina Minor / Annie McCarthy (ILL) - 8-6
University of Illinois 12-9, 7-3 Big Ten; National ranking #43
Ohio State University 19-7, 6-4 Big Ten; National ranking #34
Order of Finish: Doubles: (2, 3); Singles: (4, 2, 3, 1, 6, 5)