Redshirt-sophomore Leigh Finnegan and the Illini face conference foes Ohio State and Penn State on the road this weekend.
April 8, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 36th-ranked Illinois women's tennis team hits the road for a pair of conference matches against the 43rd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, on Friday, April 10 and the Penn State Nittany Lions, on Sunday, April 12. The Illini currently sit in third place in the conference standings and know the fourth-place Ohio State Buckeyes have their eye on them this weekend in Columbus. Last season, Illinois upset the Buckeyes twice, once in the regular season, 4-3, and then again in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament, 4-3.
"These are big time matches for us this weekend and what part of what makes playing in the Big Ten so exciting," Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso. "We know Ohio State will be gunning for us, as we were able to sneak away with two victories over them last year. They are a better team this year, but so are we. I think playing at Ohio State will test our girls' composure and mental toughness, as I'm sure the Buckeyes will have a big crowd but I feel very confident this team is prepared and ready to step up. The girls know they have put the work in, now they simply have to trust that it will pay off."
Full recaps of Illinois' matches will be available at fightingillini.com at the conclusion of play.
STATE OF THE ILLINI
The Illini (14-5, 5-1) moved up four spots to No. 36 in the most recent Cambell's Soup Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll. The Illini are coming off of a tough 6-1 loss to the No. 4-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Junior Megan Fudge notched the lone Illini victory of the afternoon for the Illini in the match against the Irish. Playing at No. 1 singles, Fudge fell behind early to 35th-ranked Kelcy Tefft (UND) 6-2 in the first set. The Kaarst, Germany native, found her rhythm in the second set, edging out Tefft, 6-4. In the supertiebreaker, Fudge gained an early lead and held off Tefft to win the match, 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (11-9).
In singles, Fudge tops the chart at No. 108 for the Illini, while redshirt-sophomore Leigh Finnegan is ranked No. 111 in the nation. Fudge, leads the team in dual match wins with a record of 17-2 and is 23-6 overall. Finnegan is currently 17-9 overall on the year and 11-7 in dual matches, primarily seeing action in the No. 1 slot for the Orange and Blue.
BIG TEN STANDINGS
Through matches of April 7, 2009
Big Ten Overall
Team Record Record
1. Northwestern 6-0 17-1
2. Michigan 6-1 11-5
3. Illinois 5-1 14-5
4. Ohio State 4-1 11-7
5. Indiana 4-2 12-7
6. Purdue 2-4 6-10
Penn State 2-4 5-13
8. Minnesota 2-5 9-9
Iowa 2-5 7-11
10. Michigan State 1-5 8-11
11. Wisconsin 0-6 5-13
Fudge and freshman Chelcie Abajian both have hit the 20-win mark for the 2008-09 season. Overall, Fudge is 23-6 overall and 17-2 in dual matches, primarily seeing action at the No. 2 slot for the Orange and Blue. In her three years at Illinois, the Kaarst, Germany, native has compiled three 20-win seasons.
Freshman Chelcie Abajian has made an immediate impact in the Illinois lineup. In her debut season with the Illini, Abajian leads the squad with an overall record of 22-15, after an impressive run at the Midwest Regional Championships in the fall. Fellow freshman Amy Allin also joined the 20-win list this past weekend, as she notched two wins over conference opponents.
Two other Illini are inching closer to clinching 20-win seasons of their own as senior Shivani Davé sits at 17-7 overeall on the season, while redshirt-sophomore Leigh Finnegan (17-10) and sophomore Marisa Lambropoulos (18-14) are not far behind.
SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES
The Buckeyes have a 12-7 overall record for the year and are in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten standings going 4-1, so far in conference play. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 43 in the Campbell's Soup ITA team poll, released on April 7. Junior Kirsten Flower has a 12-7 dual record at number one singles and has a 17-12 overall record. In doubles, senior Angela DiPastina and junior Christina Kessey have eight wins and only three losses at No. 1 doubles. The tandem of sophomore Paloma Escobedo and Flower have won eight in a row at No. 3 doubles and have an overall record of 9-1 on the season.
Illinois and Ohio State last met in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, where the Illini took a 4-3 win over the Buckeyes for the second time in the 2008 season. The Orange and Blue hold a 27-13 all-time record against Ohio State.
TAKING A LOOK AT THE NITTANY LIONS
The Nittany Lions have had a bit of a rough start to the 2009 season, going 5-13 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten matches. A highlight of the season came when the Penn State Nittany Lions beat the No. 63 Iowa Hawkeyes, in a 4-3 upset in Iowa City. Junior Lauren McCarthy is the only Penn State player with a winning Big Ten record in singles, gathering three wins and two losses and an 8-10 dual overall singles record for the season. Senior Leyla Morzan leads the team in singles wins with 16 overall for the year.
Last season, the Illini edged out the Nittany Lions, 4-3, at Penn State. Illinois holds a 16-2 all-time record against Penn State.
The 2009 ITA attendance race is on and the Illini women are among the leaders in the second annual race. The Illini women came in fourth for the average attendance in the month of March, as 147 faithful fans attended the Illini match versus Indiana; when the Illini took a 5-2 win over the Hoosiers.
The Illini conclude the regular season at home next weekend as they welcome Michigan State (4/18) and Michigan (4/19) into the confines of the Atkins Tennis Center. Illinois will honor lone senior Shivani Davé before Sunday's match against the Wolverines. First serve at both matches is set for 12 p.m. CT.