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    Illini Gear Up for Blue Gray Classic
    The Illini will head to Montgomery, Ala., for the three-day Blue Gray Classic.

    The Illini will head to Montgomery, Ala., for the three-day Blue Gray Classic.

    Feb. 23, 2012

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    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois women's tennis team (5-2) will return to action this Friday at the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic, Feb. 24-26 in Montgomery, Ala. The three-day tournament features seven teams in addition to the Illini, including No. 12 Virginia, No. 20 Alabama, No. 33 Arizona, No. 57 SMU, No. 40 Princeton, Auburn and Oklahoma State. This marks the first year the Illini women have competed in the 60-year-old tournament, which guarantees three matches for every team. Illinois will square off with Princeton in first-round action Friday at 8:30 a.m. CT and will face either Oklahoma State or second-seeded Alabama on Saturday.

    "This is the first time we have participated in the Blue Gray, so it is a very exciting experience for us all," Illini head coach Michelle Dasso said. "We are looking forward to competing against tough teams we typically don't have on our schedule. We have been very fortunate this semester being able to get quality outdoor hitting and competitions, which will be a huge advantage for us. This team is very comfortable playing outdoors."

    The Illini have faced Princeton once in school history, dropping a 4-3 match to the Tigers in 2008 in Puerto Rico. Illinois is 0-4 all-time against both of its possible second-round opponents - Oklahoma State and Alabama. The tournament features only one team Illinois has faced this season, as the Illini took down SMU, 6-1, earlier this year at Atkins Tennis Center.

    The Illini checked in at No. 58 in the latest national team rankings, which were released Feb. 22. Sophomore Allison Falkin cracked the top 125 in singles rankings for the first time in her career, checking in at No. 120 in the most recent individual rankings.

    The Tigers are 5-2 this season, boasting wins over Temple, Maryland, Rutgers, Cornell and Brown. The Princeton roster features two ranked doubles teams and one ranked singles player. Hillary Bartlett checks in at No. 84 in singles, while Bartlett and Lindsay Graff make up the No. 35 doubles tandem and duo Katie Goepel and Rachel Saiontz rank 49th.

    University of Illinois junior Rachael White was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week for the first time in her career, the conference office announced Tuesday. The Deerfield, Ill., native knocked off the nation's third-ranked doubles tandem and cruised to a singles victory in Illinois' 4-3 loss to No. 23 Notre Dame last Sunday.

    White got off to a strong start, teaming up with sophomore Allison Falkin to take down No. 3 Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews in an 8-5 upset at the No. 1 spot, which clinched the doubles point for the Orange and Blue. White followed up her stellar doubles performance with a 6-0, 7-5 win in singles, giving Illinois a 3-2 lead going into the final two singles matches of the day.

    The award marked the first for an Illini since Illinois graduate Megan Fudge garnered the honor on April 13, 2010.

    The Fighting Illini women's tennis team (5-2) jumped out to an early lead last Sunday but could not hold off No. 23 Notre Dame (6-3), dropping a 4-3 heartbreaker at Eck Tennis Pavilion. Junior Rachael White led the Orange and Blue with victories in both singles and doubles action.

    The Illini got off to a solid start against the Irish, capturing the doubles point for the sixth time this season. Redshirt senior Marisa Lambropoulos and freshman Melissa Kopinski claimed a quick 8-2 win at the No. 2 spot, while White and Falkin teamed up to take down third-ranked Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews in an 8-5 upset at No. 1, clinching the doubles point for Illinois. With the win, White and Falkin improved to 5-1 this spring.

    The Illini dropped the first two singles matches, putting themselves in a 1-2 hole. But the Orange and Blue bounced back with straight-set victories by senior Chelcie Abajian, who cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 6 singles, and White, who won 6-0, 7-5 at the No. 5 spot. The Orange and Blue could not pull off the upset, however, dropping the final two matches to the Irish.

    The Orange and Blue will open Big Ten play against Northwestern on Saturday, March 10 at 5 p.m. at Atkins Tennis Center.

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