The Illini begin their Big Ten schedule Friday at home with No. 2 Northwestern at 6 p.m.
Feb. 25, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A tough weekend lies ahead for the Illini women's tennis team (3-5, 0-0 Big Ten), as it welcomes 11-time defending Big Ten champion Northwestern (8-1, 0-0 Big Ten) to Atkins Tennis Center Friday night at 6 p.m. for the start of conference play, before closing out the weekend with nonconference foe Harvard (5-2) on Sunday at noon.
"This entire year you will hear me time and time again say how much I believe in this team," head coach Michelle Dasso said. "The girls couldn't be more anxious to kick off our Big Ten season against the top team in the conference on our home courts in front of a rowdy crowd Friday night. Claire (Pollard) has created somewhat of a dynasty at Northwestern and will be prepared and fired up to play us. We are looking forward to the challenge. This is what college tennis is all about."
Live stats will be available for both matches HERE.
LAST TIME OUT
The Illini fell at No. 17 Notre Dame, 5-2 last Saturday in its first match in nearly two weeks. Senior Megan Fudge tallied her fourth straight victory of the season, while junior Leigh Finnegan returned for her first singles match since Jan. 30 and picked up her first win of the spring season.
The Irish took a 1-0 advantage after sweeping all three doubles matches, before Finnegan evened the score with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kristen Rafael. Notre Dame bounced back to claim the next four matches, however, including at the No. 4 position as No. 114 Kali Krisik snapped junior Marisa Lambropoulos' seven-match winning streak, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-3. Fudge concluded the day with a 7-6, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8) win over Shannon Mathews.
CAMPBELL'S/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
Illinois checked in at No. 39 in the latest Campbell's/ITA national rankings released Tuesday, while Northwestern dropped down to No. 2 after falling at Notre Dame last week and Harvard rounded out the group at No. 53.
THE NORTHWESTERN TENNIS CONNECTION
For the second straight match, Illini coaches will face an alma mater, as first-year assistants Georgia Rose and Keri Robison are both alumnae of Northwestern and finished their collegiate tennis careers with the Wildcats last season. Rose helped lead the Wildcats to four straight conference titles and was only the second player in school history to qualify for the NCAA Singles Championship all four years. She earned ITA Midwest Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and later went on to become a four-time All-American with 125 singles wins, including a 29-2 mark in the Big Ten. She was named ITA Midwest Regional Senior of the Year in 2009, ending the season ranked No. 21 nationally in singles and No. 13 in doubles after advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships.
Robison finished her career at Northwestern with an overall singles record of 59-17 and 77-17 after transferring in her sophomore year from the University of Florida. During her senior season in 2008-09, Robison compiled a career-best 31-8 overall singles record and qualified for the NCAA Doubles Championships with current junior Maria Mosolova. The duo went 25-5 overall and 10-0 in the Big Ten playing at No. 2 doubles and finished the season ranked No. 34 nationally.
Less than a week after winning their second straight ITA National Team Indoor Championships title, the Wildcats dropped their first match of the season at No. 17 Notre Dame, 5-2 on Sunday. It was only their fifth loss in three seasons, having lost just two matches each in 2008 and 2009, and it also knocked them out of the top-spot they held for just three days. Prior to winning the ITA Indoor title, Northwestern had fallen out of the top two in the national rankings for the first time since 2008, despite opening the dual season with eight straight wins, including five over opponents ranked in the top 25.
Northwestern has been ranked inside the top 10 for its last six meetings with Illinois, including No. 1 the previous two seasons. The Illini's last win over the Wildcats was a 4-3 victory on April 4, 2004 at Atkins Tennis Center. Northwestern leads the all-time series, 40-7.
Several Wildcats are scattered throughout the national singles and doubles rankings, as Mosolova ranks 12th in singles, followed by senior Samantha Murray at No. 29 and freshman Kate Turvy at No. 108. In doubles, four different Wildcat tandems rank within the top 45, including senior Lauren Lui and sophomore Elena Chernyakova (No. 14), Murray and Turvy (21), Lui and Murray (35) and freshman Brittany Wowchuk and Chernyakova (44).
Harvard will play its first matches this weekend since finishing third at the ECAC Indoor Championships, Feb. 12-14. Serving as host for the event, the Crimson defeated Cornell in the opening round, 6-1, before falling to eventual-champion Yale, 6-1. Harvard bounced back the following day to top Princeton, 6-2 in a consolation match. The Crimson will make a stop at Purdue Saturday night before making their way to Urbana for just their fourth ever meeting with Illinois. The Illini lead the all-time series, 2-1, and won last year's contest in Cambridge, 5-2.
The Crimson are led by sophomore Holly Cao, who checks in at No. 57 in singles and has tallied 16 overall wins, including a 5-0 mark at the No. 1 position. No. 115 Hideko Tachibana has made an immediate impact in her freshman season thus far, as she currently leads the team with 17 overall wins and is 5-1 at No. 2 singles.
The Illini are back on the road next Sunday, March 7 at No. 32 TCU at Noon CT.