Illini take on #14 Alabama Friday morning at 11 a.m. CT
Feb. 20, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The University of Illinois women’s tennis team (4-3) will travel to Montgomery, Ala. to compete in the annual Blue Gray National Tennis Classic Feb. 21-23. The tournament will feature No. 14 Alabama, No. 19 Auburn, No. 29 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Rice, No. 21 Texas Tech, No. 75 Tulane, and No. 36 Yale. This marks the second time the Illini women have competed in the storied tournament, which guarantees three matches for every team. No. 42 Illinois will face No. 1 seed Alabama on Friday at 11 a.m. CT and will face either three-seed Texas Tech or Yale on Saturday.
The Illini have faced Alabama five times in seasons past, going 0-5 and last facing the Crimson Tide at the Blue Gray Classic in 2012, where they lost 3-4 to the No. 20 team. Illinois is 1-0 over Yale, last meeting in 1996, where the Illini handedly beat the Bulldogs 8-1 and the Illini have never faced Texas Tech before. The tournament features only one team Illinois has faced this season, as the Illini met Oklahoma State at the Maui Invitational earlier this year.
SCOUTING FIRST-ROUND ALABAMA
The Crimson Tide is 5-2 this season, boasting wins over Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. The Alabama roster features three ranked singles players: Maya Jansen at No. 59, Erin Routliffe at No. 62, and Mary Anne Daines at No. 76. In doubles, Routliffe and Jansen sit at No. 20, Emily Zabor/Luicelena Perez at No. 36, and Routliffe makes another appearance at No. 45 with Danielle Spielmann as her partner.
NEW SCORING SYSTEM
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.
CAMPBELL/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
Illinois sits at No. 42 in the nation as a team. In the regional rankings, Melissa Kopinski is No. 10 in the Midwest singles, followed by Allison Falkin and Alexis Casati at No. 14 and No. 15 respectively. Kopinski/Casati are the only doubles team for Illinois in the rankings, holding steady at No. 10 in Midwest.
LAST TIME OUT
The Illini came out of their away matches 0-2, dropping close matches to Oklahoma and Wichita State. The Illini suffered a 5-2 loss to the Sooners on Saturday Feb. 8, with freshmen Alexis Casati and Louise Kwong coming away with the only Illini wins of the day. Doubles was a struggle for Illinois, losing the first two matches 6-1 and leaving the Kedzierski/Kwong match unfinished.
The Orange and Blue also had a close 4-3 match at Wichita State on Feb. 9. Casati and Kwong went undefeated yet again, making them the only two Illini without a loss this season. Allison Falkin also stepped up to win her match 2-6, 7-5, 31-11. In doubles, the Illini failed to capture the point again, but came away with one win from the Kopinski/Casati duo.
Twelve of Illinois’ regular season opponents were nationally ranked to start the season, and five were in the top 25. Illinois sits at No. 44 and seven other Big Ten teams crack the rankings, including No. 11 Michigan, No. 15 Northwestern, No. 25 Nebraska, No. 27 Purdue, No. 40 Indiana, No. 49 Penn State, and No. 72 Ohio State.
The Orange and Blue will return to action Sunday March 2, when they will take on the Southern Illinois Salukis in the Atkins Tennis Center at 4 p.m. CT.