Women's Tennis
Illini Return Home for Two Matches this Weekend

The Illini will host Syracuse on Friday at 5 p.m. and Oklahoma on Sunday at Noon.
The Illini will host Syracuse on Friday at 5 p.m. and Oklahoma on Sunday at Noon.

Feb. 21, 2013

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini women's tennis team (4-4) will host two matches at the Atkins Tennis Center this weekend, squaring off with Syracuse on Friday at 5 p.m. and Oklahoma on Sunday at Noon.

Friday's match will mark the first-ever meeting between the Illini and Syracuse. Meanwhile, Oklahoma boasts a 4-0 lead in the all-time series with Illinois. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Sooners claimed a 6-3 victory on Feb. 3, 1995 in Urbana.

Syracuse is 4-5 going into the weekend and is on a four-match winning streak after starting the season 0-5. The Orange secured a 7-0 shutout against Binghamton last Friday and continued with a 6-1 win over Pittsburgh last Sunday. Amanda Rodgers and Maddie Kobelt lead the team with six wins apiece.

No. 36 Oklahoma is 5-2, coming off a pair of upset victories over then-No. 28 Tulsa and No. 37 Arkansas last weekend. The squad will play Iowa on Friday before making the trip to Urbana. The Sooners' match with the Hawkeyes will serve as their first true road contest of the season. OU boasts two ranked duos -- No. 36 Hermon Brhane and Whitney Ritchie and No. 59 Emma Devine and Mia Lancaster. Brhane also is ranked in singles, checking in at No. 87 in the latest poll.

The Illini will host Squeeze the Orange on Friday. The event will feature free Orange Fanta floats for all fans and free BBQ sandwiches for all University of Illinois students. The Fanta floats are part of a season-long promotion called Fanta Float Fridays. Free Orange Fanta floats will be available for every Friday home match for the rest of the season.

Illinois will host Fan Experience Day on Sunday. The festivities will include post-match autographs, a question-and-answer session with head coach Michelle Dasso and a tour of the Atkins Tennis Center.

The Illini dropped three spots since their last outing more than two weeks ago, falling to No. 34 in the national team rankings, which were released Feb. 19. Senior Rachael White and sophomore Melissa Kopinski slipped 10 spots to No. 21 in the latest doubles rankings (Feb. 12), while in singles, Kopinski is ranked 106th and junior Allison Falkin 119th.

The Orange and Blue picked up two 4-3 road victories in the first week of February, taking down Georgia State and Furman. Illinois won the doubles point in both matches, snapping a three-match losing streak. The Illini are now 4-0 when winning in doubles.

Former Illini Marisa Lambropoulos joined the Oklahoma coaching staff as a volunteer assistant coach earlier this season. The 2012 graduate was a second-team All-Big Ten honoree last year and took home the Midwest Region Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award.

Fighting Illini women's tennis head coach Michelle Dasso announced on Feb. 13 the addition of two assistant coaches to her staff. Mark Denenfeld and Kelly Anderson will aid Illinois for the remainder of its 2013 campaign.

Denenfeld played at Kalamazoo College from 2009-12 and earned all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association honors in three of his four years.

Anderson wrapped up a stellar four-year playing career at Georgia Tech in 2006. The South Africa native was named ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003 and garnered all-ACC honors in 2004. She reached as high as No. 135 in the world doubles rankings in 2008. Anderson recently earned an MBA from Campbellsville University, where she served as the assistant coach for both the men's and women's tennis teams.

Seventeen of Illinois' 22 regular season opponents were nationally ranked to start the season, and six were in the top 25. Nine other Big Ten teams cracked the initial rankings, including then-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. Illinois' four losses have come to teams in the top 25.

The Orange and Blue will return to action next Saturday to take on Northwestern at 11 a.m. in Evanston, Ill.