Jan. 12, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 24th-ranked Fighting Illini women's tennis team (0-0) will open its dual season this Sunday at No. 9 Miami (1-0). The match is slated to begin at 10 a.m. CT at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
"Playing Miami right off the bat is good for us," Illini head coach Michelle Dasso said. "It's such a tough team, and we are going to learn from it. The girls are fired up and ready to go. They are excited for this opportunity, and we're hoping to surprise Miami and show them what we've done."
The Illini have faced Miami three times in program history, coming up short in each of those contests. The most recent meeting between the two teams resulted in a 6-1 loss for the Illini on Jan. 18, 2003. Sunday's match will mark the first time Illinois has taken on the Hurricanes under Dasso.
The Canes are coming off a dominating 7-0 win over Florida Atlantic in their season opener on Friday. The squad boasts four ranked singles players, including No. 51 Kelsey Laurente, No. 57 Lina Lileikite, No. 88 Nicolle Stracar and No. 92 Stephanie Wagner. Miami's roster also features one ranked duo, No. 57 Brittany Dubins and Stracar.
CAMPBELL/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Illini checked in at No. 24 in the team rankings to start the season, marking the second time in the last three years and third time in the last decade that the program has opened the season in the top 25. Senior Rachael White and sophomore Melissa Kopinski are ranked 11th in doubles, while junior Allison Falkin is ranked 59th and Kopinski 106th in singles.
Seventeen of Illinois' 22 regular season opponents are nationally ranked to start the season, and six are in the top 25. Nine other Big Ten teams cracked the rankings, including No. 13 Northwestern, No. 16 Michigan, No. 17 Nebraska, No. 27 Purdue, No. 41 Minnesota, No. 49 Indiana, No. 50 Penn State, No. 57 Ohio State and No. 75 Wisconsin.
White and Kopinski led the team with 12 doubles wins last fall, including five over ranked opponents. The tandem played its way to the quarterfinals of the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships and won the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional doubles title in Urbana to earn a bid to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, N.Y. Their doubles title marked Illinois' first since 2002.
The Illini will open their home schedule next weekend with three matches at the Atkins Tennis Center, hosting Illinois State (3 p.m.) and Western Illinois (7 p.m.) on Jan. 18 and No. 19 Notre Dame on Jan. 20 at Noon.