March 1, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini women's tennis team (6-4) will open Big Ten play this weekend, taking on No. 8 Northwestern (6-4) on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT in Evanston, Ill.
Illinois is 8-45 all-time against Northwestern after losing a 5-2 home match in last year's meeting. The Illini have lost their last 11 matches with the Wildcats, dating back to April 4, 2008.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
No. 8 Northwestern is 6-4 this season, boasting four wins over top-25 teams, including then-No. 9 Alabama and No. 10 Miami. The Wildcats are coming off a 4-1 win over No. 19 Baylor last Saturday in Evanston. The squad features two ranked singles players -- No. 55 Kate Turvy and No. 96 Belinda Niu. In doubles, Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton are ranked 8th.
CAMPBELL/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Illini moved up a spot to No. 33 in this week's national team rankings after picking up wins over Syracuse and Oklahoma. Senior Rachael White and sophomore Melissa Kopinski slipped one spot to No. 22 in the latest doubles rankings (Feb. 26), while in singles, Kopinski dropped 14 spots to No. 120.
LAST TIME OUT
Illinois won both of its matches last weekend, capturing a 6-1 win over Syracuse on Friday and a 5-2 victory against Oklahoma on Sunday. The Orange and Blue clinched the doubles point in both contests and are now 6-0 when winning in doubles.
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 be back in action next weekend, continuing a stretch of five road matches with two Big Ten contests. The Illini will battle Nebraska on Friday at 5 p.m. CT in Lincoln and Iowa on Sunday at Noon in Iowa City.