2014 Women's Tennis Season Preview
Jan. 14, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini women’s tennis team is will kickoff their 2014 season with a four day tournament starting Thursday, Jan. 16, held on Maui, Hawaii and hosted by the University of Georgia. Head coach Michelle Dasso returns for her eighth season with the Illini. The 2013 squad went 14-11 overall, 6-5 in the Big Ten, reached the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals where they fell to Purdue.
The Illini face a tough schedule, facing #4 University of Georgia in the upcoming Maui tournament, trips to #21 Notre Dame and #11 Michigan, and hosting Big Ten opponents #15 Northwestern, and #25 Nebraska.
Illinois returned six players from last year's squad, including All-American Melissa Kopinski. The Orange and Blue is comprised of two seniors: Allison Falkin and Misia Kedzierski, two juniors: Julia Jamieson and Kopinski, and two sophomores: Emily Baretta and Audrey O’Connor. The team also features freshmen Jerricka Boone, Alexis Casati, and Louise Kwong.
“Our three freshman may not have dual match experience under their belts yet but their adjustment to the time demands athletically and academically for the their first semester in college was very impressive,” said Dasso.
Melissa Kopinski returns after ending the 2013 season at #15 in the nation along with her partner Rachael White, who graduated this past year. The two earned All-American honors for advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals. Kopinski was also a force in singles, closing last season at #11 in the Midwest Region. Kopinski ended the 2013 fall season 5-3 in singles and 2-2 with her new doubles partner Allison Falkin.
“Melissa is a special type of player that truly loves the game of tennis. It has been fun seeing her intensity and confidence grow on the court.”
Kopinski’s doubles partner Allison Falkin looks to carry momentum as a senior this year. Falkin went 6-2 during the 2013 season and led the team in conference wins, going 7-3 in the Big Ten, earning a first-team All-Big Ten selection. She ended the season ranked #6 in Midwest Region singles.
The second senior returning to the Illini is Misia Kedzierski. Kedzierski comes off of the 2013 season having won 14 singles matches and went 6-3 in Big Ten play, second only to Falkin. In the fall, Kedzierski paired with freshman Louise Kwong to advance to the ITA Midwest Indoor Regionals quarterfinals along with Kopinski and Falkin.
“Our two seniors will lead the way. Misia brings a positive attitude and sense of optimism daily. Al brings a competitive spirit and strong desire to win every time she steps onto the court. Those both are admirable characteristics.”
Julia Jamieson, Emily Baretta, and Audrey O’Connor will also return to the Illini this season to round off the lineup. Jamieson picked up eight singles wins along with five doubles matches with her partner O’Connor. O’Connor earned the Illinois’ Sportsmanship Award at the Big Ten Tournament banquet this past year, given to the athlete from each school who distinguishes herself through sportsmanship, ethical behavior, and strong academic performance.
“I really respect the work ethic and quality of all nine individuals that compose our team,” said Dasso. “It is definitely a mixture of the young, hungry, and inexperienced with the veteran, experienced, competitive players. The key is they all are driven, motivated, and willing to help and push each other to be the best they can be.”
This season will see a change in format in the hopes of attracting and keeping more fans at the matches. During the first six weeks of play, doubles will be a regular set to 6, with a tiebreaker at 6-6. Singles will be best-of-three sets with a ten-point match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set. There will be no warm-up against the opponent in either singles or doubles.
This experimental scoring will come to an end when the Fighting Illini compete in the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala. from Feb. 21 through the 23.
Big Ten play begins March 8 when the Illini host #15 Northwestern in Urbana, Ill.
On April 13 the Illini will host #25 Nebraska for one of the first College Match Days, which will be broadcast on ESPN3. The current match format for College Match Day is similar to the above changes. Six best-of-three singles matches with regular scoring will determine the match outcome. Should there be a 3-3 tie after singles, teams would then play an ‘overtime.’ This overtime will be best-of-three doubles 10-point match tiebreakers that would be played concurrently to determine the match’s outcome.
The Illini will compete this coming weekend at the Maui Tournament, hosted by the University of Georgia, beginning on Thursday at 11:45 a.m. CT.