April 27, 2006
URBANA, Ill. -
Illinois won the doubles point for the first time since Feb. 4 and it certainly helped the No. 10 seed over come No. 7 seed Ohio State 4-2 in the first round of the 2006 Big Ten Tournament at Atkins Tennis Center.
"We had a great week of preparation," head coach Sujay Lama. "And for the first time in a while we had two doubles teams show up and get the job done on the same day. Momei Qu and Alejandra Meza Cuadra played the best doubles of the year. Winning the doubles point was a huge momentum builder for us."
The home-court motivation was appareant from the start as the top Illinois tandem of Macall Harkins and Emily Wang defeated Ohio State's Caitlin O'Keefe and Angela Dipastina 9-7. The Buckeyes then took a set as Sonia Ruzimovsky and Julie Blackmore dismissed Brianna Knue and Shivani Dave 8-5 at No. 2. The Illini held on, however, with Alejandra Meza Cuadra and Momei Qu securing the point for the 1-0 lead.
The singles matches proved to be a back and forth battle, with both teams fighting to keep their teams alive in the championship tournament. At No. 1 singles, Harkins bounced back from two disappointing losses in the final weekend of the regular season to hold off Ruzimovsky 7-5, 6-2. Caitlin O'Keefe battled back to keep the Buckeyes in the match as she defeated Qu 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2. Moments later Ciara Finucane knotted the match at two apiece as she beat Wng 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4.
Cuadra broke the tie, putting Illinois in position for the win as she fended off Dipastina 6-4, 6-2 at No. 4. While Knue and Blackmore were battling at the No. 3 spot, Davé and Kristin Messmer were fighting at No. 5. The crowd was moving between the two courts to see which would finish first, and which would have the deciding point at stake. It was Davé who emerged victorious first, with a grueling 6-4, 7-5 win, which then gave Illinois the 4-2 point lead and the win. With the winner already decided, Knue and Blackmore's match was abandoned.
"There was a lot of pressure, but the team was there to support me," Davé said. "I was able to get the job done and it's a great feeling. It gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow."
UP NEXT:Illinois advances to take on No. 2 seed Iowa, in search of their second upset of the weekend. The quarterfinal match-up is set for 2:00 p.m. on Friday. Iowa finished the regular season 9-1, their best finish in school history. Illinois lost at Iowa City in the regualr season finale, 5-2.