Women's Tennis
#18 Illini Travel South for NCAA Tournament

The Illini will face Rice in NCAA opening-round action on Friday at 11 a.m.
The Illini will face Rice in NCAA opening-round action on Friday at 11 a.m.

May 10, 2012

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 18th-ranked Fighting Illini women's tennis team (18-7) will travel to Ole Miss for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Championships, May 11-12 at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center in Oxford, Miss. Illinois will make its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance and will battle familiar foe No. 39 Rice (16-8) on Friday, May 11 at 11 a.m. The Orange and Blue took down the Owls, 5-1, earlier this spring to kick off their current 12-2 stretch. Southern (10-10) and host No. 16 Ole Miss (17-8) will square off in the other opening round match of the day at 2 p.m. The second-round match is slated to begin Saturday, May 12 at 3 p.m.

First- and second-round competition will take place May 11-13 at 16 different regional sites with the winner of each site advancing to the NCAA Division I Tennis Championships, May 17-22, at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.

The Illini checked in at No. 18 in the latest national team rankings, marking their highest ranking since reaching No. 17 in 2003 and their highest ranking under head coach Michelle Dasso. Individually, Allison Falkin cracked the singles rankings list at No. 111, while junior Rachael White and Falkin checked in at No. 53, followed by redshirt senior Marisa Lambropoulos and freshman Melissa Kopinski at No. 69.

The third-seeded Illini picked up a convincing 4-0 victory over Minnesota to advance to the semifinals, where they fell 4-0 to second-seeded Michigan.

The Fighting Illini women's tennis team snapped a three-match losing streak with a convincing 5-1 win over then-No. 29 Rice March 19 at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium, defeating its highest ranked opponent at that point in the season. Junior Rachael White led the charge with victories in both singles and doubles action, while redshirt senior Marisa Lambropoulos clinched Illinois' first win of the month with solid play at No. 2 singles.

The Illini won the doubles point with a lineup of new doubles tandems, as sophomore Allison Falkin and senior Chelcie Abajian paired up for the first time this season to start the Illini off with an 8-2 win at the No. 3 spot. White and senior Amy Allin made their 2012 debut as a doubles team as well, capturing an 8-5 victory at No. 2 to give the Illini the 1-0 lead going into singles play.

White picked up where she left off, cruising to a quick 6-0, 6-3 victory over Kimberly Anicete at the No. 5 spot. Freshman Melissa Kopinski took down Katie Gater, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, at No. 3 singles for her team-leading 14th win of the season, allowing Lambropoulos to clinch the dual victory for the Orange and Blue with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 decision over Dominique Harmath at the No. 2 spot. Breanne Smutko added a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win over Stephanie Nguyen at No. 6 before play was halted by rain, leaving the No. 4 match unfinished.

University of Illinois sophomore Allison Falkin, freshman Melissa Kopinski and senior Marisa Lambropoulos each earned All-Big Ten honors, the conference office announced at the 2012 Big Ten Tournament Awards Banquet. Falkin and Kopinski garnered first-team recognition, marking career firsts for both athletes, while Lambropoulos earned second-team recognition to garner the first conference honor of her career. The announcement marks the first time Illinois has produced three All-Big Ten honorees in program history and is the 12th straight year at least one Illini has been named All-Conference.

Kopinski also was Illinois' Sportsmanship Award honoree, given to individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship, ethical behavior and strong academic performance and who have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

Kopinski, Falkin and Lambropoulos join 2011 All-Big Ten honorees White and senior Amy Allin as current Illini who have earned the recognition.

The 4-3 win at then-No. 9 Texas on March 21 marked Illinois' first victory over the Longhorns in program history (1-4 all-time) and its first win over a top-10 team since defeating No. 1 Duke on Feb. 23, 2003. The upset also was the Orange and Blue's first win over a top-25 team since downing No. 22 Iowa on April 10, 2010.

The Illinois men's and women's tennis teams honored the season's accomplishments at the 19th annual Advantage Illinois Tennis Awards Banquet April 30 at the I-Hotel. Freshman Melissa Kopinski, a first-team All-Big Ten honoree, was selected Advantage Illinois Most Valuable Player. Senior Chelcie Abajian earned the Scholar-Athlete award, while freshman Melissa Kopinski was tabbed Player to Watch, and sophomore Allison Falkin was named Most Improved. In addition, senior Amy Allin received the Brianna Knue Fighting Illini Spirit Award, and junior Rachael White and senior Marisa Lambropoulos shared the Strength and Conditioning award.

University of Illinois junior Rachael White was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week for the first time in her career on Feb. 21. 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.

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.