Sophomore Megan Fudge led the way for the Illini during the 2007-08 campaign.
June 17, 2008
Urbana, Ill. - In head coach Michelle Dasso's second year at the helm of the Illinois women's tennis team the Orange and Blue saw a complete turnaround. The Fighting Illini finished fourth in the Big Ten (7-3) and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2003-04 campaign.
Sophomore Megan Fudge once again led the Orange and Blue at the No.1 singles slot. Fudge was a unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection and was named Big Ten Player of the Week twice during the season for her outstanding play.
A few fresh faces also emerged in the Illini lineup as redshirt-freshman Leigh Finnegan held down the No. 2 singles for most of the year and freshman Marisa Lambropoulos played in the No. 3 singles slot in all but one match. In the doubles lineup, freshman Annie McCarthy was pivotal at No. 3 doubles with partner Kristina Minor.
To start off the season the Illini were unranked, but they wasted no time busting into the national spotlight. Illinois got the ball rolling by upending No. 60 DePaul, 6-1, at the Atkins Tennis Center on Feb. 8 and continued their winning ways with a 5-2 victory over Kansas in their next match. Following those wins, the Illini debuted in the Feb. 12 ITA rankings at No. 68; marking the first time Illinois appeared in the ITA polls since March 28, 2006.
Continuing their climb up the ITA rankings, the No. 65 Illini won their Big Ten opener over Purdue with a come from behind 4-3 win. After a spring break trip to Puerto Rico, the Illini returned their focus to the Big Ten, namely Michigan State. The No. 55 Fighting Illini remained perfect in league play with a 4-3 win over the Spartans.
The red-hot Illini moved to 3-0 in the Big Ten with a 6-1 victory over Wisconsin the following week and then later in the season they upset No. 31 Ohio State, 5-2, to highlight a four-match Big Ten road trip. The Illini then closed out conference play with dominating home victories over Minnesota and Iowa to finish 7-3 in league action, good for fourth place in the regular season standings.
Waiting for the Illini in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament was familiar foe: Ohio State. With a berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line, the Orange and Blue needed to push past the Buckeyes in order to continue into the postseason. Once again, the No. 43 Illini upset the No. 34 Buckeyes, 4-3, to advance to the semifinals.
After a Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to No. 1 Northwestern, the Illini waited to learn their NCAA fate. When the draw was announced, the Orange and Blue heard their name called in the Georgia Tech regional in Atlanta, Ga.
In the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the Illini faced off against the No. 25 Tennessee Lady Volunteers, falling 4-0.
Despite coming up short against the Lady Volunteers, the Illini went from 1-9 to 7-3 in the Big Ten in just one year and achieved their goal of making the NCAA Tournament. The successful 2007-08 season helped to build the foundation for even greater success in the years to come.