Jan. 16, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 24th-ranked Fighting Illini women's tennis team (0-1) will host three matches at the Atkins Tennis Center this weekend, welcoming Illinois State (0-0) and Western Illinois (0-0) on Friday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, and No. 19 Notre Dame (0-0) on Sunday at Noon. Friday's matches will feature experimental formats, as encouraged by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, and fans will have chances to provide feedback through surveys following both contests on Friday.
"This could potentially be the most exciting weekend of home matches all season," head coach Michelle Dasso said. "On Friday, we are experimenting with different formats, which will be new for all players, coaches and fans. We are at a very pivotal time in college tennis, and the ITA is encouraging coaches to experiment with different formats with the hope to continue to grow our sport and keep tennis fans engaged. I am thankful (Illinois State head coach) Chris Hoover and (Western Illinois head coach) Chris Kane have agreed to these formats, and hopefully, we will be able to gather some data and feedback from fans for the good of our sport as a whole."
Illinois boasts a 29-8 all-time mark against Illinois State and has won the last 27 matches against the Redbirds, dating back to 1981.
The Illini are 12-2 all-time against Western Illinois, which they have met only twice since 1988. Illinois secured 7-0 shutouts in each of those meetings, including last year's win during which the Orange and Blue never relinquished a game in singles play.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with the Illini, 24-8, and has won the last eight meetings between the two teams. Illinois' last victory against the Irish came on March 4, 2004. The Orange and Blue dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker in last year's contest in South Bend, Ind.
Friday afternoon's dual match with Illinois State will feature four singles matches and one doubles match played simultaneously. Each singles match will be worth one point, and the lone doubles match will be worth two points. Each of the four singles matches and doubles match will be best of three sets with no-ad scoring. In the event of an overall 3-3 tie, each coach will designate two members of his or her squad to compete as a doubles team in a 10-point super tiebreaker to determine the winner of the dual match. If the dual match is clinched before a third set in one of the individual matches, a 10-point tiebreaker will be played in place of a traditional third set.
Friday night's match with Western Illinois will be played like a traditional dual match (three eight-game doubles matches in a best-of-three format for one doubles point, followed by six singles matches worth one point apiece) but with no-ad scoring. Opponents will not warm up together before singles or doubles matches, and the break between doubles and singles will be five minutes rather than 10. If a team clinches the doubles point after two matches, the remaining match will stop.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Illinois State will open its dual season this Friday after going 13-11 last spring. Emmie Marx led the Redbirds in the fall with 11 singles wins, followed by Stefanie Youngberg with 10, while Heather Nisbet and Youngberg posted a team-leading 5 doubles wins.
Friday evening's match will mark the season opener for Western Illinois. The squad ended the season with a 1-17 mark last spring with its lone victory coming to Monmouth College. The Leathernecks went 6-96 in individual singles matches, led by Megan Pazdernick, who is one of two seniors on the squad.
No. 19 Notre Dame is 0-0 going into the weekend and will host Bowling Green on Friday before making the trip to Urbana on Sunday. The Irish were 21-8 last spring. This season's squad features a pair of ranked duos, including No. 20 Britney Sanders and Julie Sabacinski and No. 44 Molly O'Koniewski and Jennifer Kellner. Sanders also is ranked in singles, checking in at No. 58.
CAMPBELL/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Illini checked in at No. 24 in the first team rankings of the season, marking the second time in the last three years and third time in the last decade that the program 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.
DASSO AT NOTRE DAME
Seventh-year Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso was a four-time ITA All-American as a member of Notre Dame's women's tennis team from 1998-2001. The former Irish standout also earned ITA National Senior Player of the Year honors, was a four-time team most valuable player and still holds several school records, including career singles wins (140), most wins at No. 1 singles (67), season singles victories (40) and season combined victories (74). Prior to her stint at Illinois, Dasso was an assistant coach with the Irish from 2003-06, where she earned ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year accolades in 2006 after helping lead Notre Dame to a 27-2 record and No. 2 ranking for a majority of the season.
LAST TIME OUT
Illinois started its season with a 7-0 loss to No. 9 Miami (2-0) on Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center. Sophomore Julia Jamieson was the lone Illini to force a third set, eventually losing a 2-6, 6-2, (10-5) thriller to Clementina Riobueno at the No. 5 spot.
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 crack 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 Orange and Blue will travel to Oxford, Miss., next weekend for ITA Kick-Off action, which will take place Jan. 27-28. The second-seeded Illini will face third-seeded Vanderbilt in round one and will battle either host and top-seeded Ole Miss or fourth-seeded Yale in round two. The winner of the four-team playoff will join the champion from each of the other 14 host sites in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in February.