The Illini will hit the road next week to face No. 29 Rice and No. 8 Texas.
March 16, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois women's tennis team (6-5) will travel south early next week to wrap up the nonconference schedule, facing No. 29 Rice on Monday, March 19 in Houston and No. 8 Texas on Wednesday, March 21 in Austin. Both matches are slated to begin at 2 p.m. CT.
Monday's match will mark the first time the Illini have faced Rice in the last two decades. The all-time series is split 1-1 with Illinois' win coming in their most recent meeting, which took place March 15, 1992 in Houston. The Illini trail Texas 0-4 all-time, including a loss to the Longhorns last season in Austin. Despite Illinois' loss, current senior Amy Allin, junior Breanne Smutko and sophomore Allison Falkin came away with singles victories in the 4-3 thriller.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
No. 29 Rice boasts a 9-3 record this season and has won its last three matches, including a 4-3 win over then-No. 26 South Florida in its last outing (March 4). The Owl roster features both a nationally ranked doubles tandem and singles player. Dominique Harmath and Natalie Beazant check in at No. 42 in doubles, while Beazant ranks 46th on her own.
The No. 8 Longhorns are 7-4 heading into the weekend but will face Iowa State and Missouri prior to squaring off with the Illini. The squad is coming off a 4-3 loss to fourth-ranked powerhouse USC on March 14. Texas boasts three ranked singles players and a doubles team, including No. 24 Aeriel Ellis, No. 75 Krista Damico, No. 122 Noel Scott and No. 23 duo Lina Padegimaite and Scott. New team rankings will be released March 20.
CAMPBELL/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Illini dropped a spot to No. 46 in the latest national team rankings (March 13) after their 5-2 loss to then-No. 14 Northwestern. In singles rankings, sophomore Allison Falkin jumped ahead 4 places to a career-high No. 92 after cracking the top 125 for the first time in her career on Feb. 16. In doubles, junior Rachael White and Falkin fell a spot to No. 41.
LAST TIME OUT
The Illini fell to then-No. 14 Northwestern, 5-2, in their conference opener last weekend at Atkins Tennis Center. Freshman Melissa Kopinski led the Orange and Blue with wins in both singles and doubles action, but it was not enough as Illinois suffered its third straight loss, dropping to 6-5 on the season and 0-1 in the Big Ten, while the Wildcats improved to 6-6 overall and 1-0 in the conference.
The Illini got off to a slow start, dropping the doubles point for their third consecutive match with losses at Nos. 1 and 2. Junior Breanne Smutko and Kopinski teamed up for the first time this season and helped the Orange and Blue avoid the doubles sweep with an 8-4 win at No. 3.
Illinois' struggles continued in singles play, as the Illini lost the first three completed matches to go down 4-0. Sophomore Allison Falkin, ranked 96th in the nation, put the Illini on the board with a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over No. 51 Brittany Wowchuk at No. 2 singles, marking her second win over a ranked opponent this spring. Kopinski followed with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over familiar foe No. 118 Belinda Niu at the No. 3 spot to give the Illini their final point.
The Orange and Blue will return to Urbana next weekend for a two-match homestand, welcoming Nebraska on Saturday, March 24 and Iowa on Sunday, March 25. Both matches will begin at Noon CT at Atkins Tennis Center.