Head Coach Michelle Dasso
Aug. 7, 2013
By Lexi Shurilla, fightingillini.com staff writer
Coming off of a strong 2011-12 season, the Fighting Illini showed they had national ranking potential and finished 14-11 overall and 6-5 in the Big Ten. The Orange and Blue made an impressive run in doubles at the NCAA Championships, hosted on Illinois' home turf in Urbana for the first time in school history.
Senior Rachael White and sophomore Melissa Kopinski led the Illini in the fall season with 12 doubles wins, including five over ranked opponents. The tandem played its way to the quarterfinals of the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships and won the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional doubles title in Urbana to earn a bid to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, N.Y.
White and Kopinski took down four nationally ranked opponents in their run to the quarterfinals before falling 8-4 to USC, then the No. 1 tandem in the country. Their doubles title marked Illinois' first since Jennifer McGaffigan and Michelle Webb in 2002.
Seventeen of Illinois' 22 regular season opponents were nationally ranked to start the spring, with six in the top 25. The Fighting Illini started the season ranked No. 24 in the nation, marking the second time in the last three years the program opened the spring in the top 25. Illinois opened with the nation's 11th-ranked doubles team - White and Kopinski - and two nationally ranked singles players, including then-No. 59 junior Allison Falkin and then-No. 106 Kopinski.
Illinois opened the dual season with a 7-0 loss at then-No. 9 Miami. The Illini played their next three matches at home, racking up two wins against Illinois State and Western Illinois, and then losing 4-3 in a thriller to the 23rd-ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
The Illini were able to win four out of their next six contests before entering Big Ten play, including wins against Georgia State, Furman, Syracuse and Oklahoma.
The Orange and Blue kicked off conference play in Evanston, Ill., against Northwestern (12), and opened up a four-match losing streak, beginning with a 5-2 loss to the Wildcats. Following its opening loss, Illinois fell to Nebraska (16), Iowa and non-conference foe Oklahoma State.
Illinois was able to pull off a quick turnaround with a 5-2 win over the Wisconsin Badgers to mark its first Big Ten win of the season. The Illini continued to improve their performance and won seven of their last nine regular season matches with their only losses coming to Michigan (10) and Purdue.
The Orange and Blue traveled to Bloomington, Ind., for the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois was able to make it past Michigan State, 4-1, but cut the trip short with a second-round loss to Purdue, marking the Illini's second loss to the Boilermakers in 2013.
White and Kopinski received an at-large bid to the 2013 NCAA Championships, with the Illini team as a whole just missing the cut. The duo was the fourth-ever Illinois doubles team to earn a trip to the NCAA Championships, and first to earn an NCAA Doubles Championship bid since McGaffigan and Webb in 2003.
The then-No. 25-ranked pair had just under a month to prepare for the NCAA Championships at the end of May. The tournament took place at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex at the Atkins Tennis Center. The first six days of competition (May 16-21) included the team championships, while the final six days (May 22-27) featured the men's and women's 64-player singles and 32-tandem doubles championships.
In the opening round of the tournament, White and Kopinski easily took down their No. 29-ranked South Carolina opponents - Jaklin Alawi and Dominika Kanakova - in a 6-0 win.
White and Kopinski became the first-ever Illinois doubles team to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships and, with the win, gained All-America recognition for the first time for Illinois since Lindsey Nimmo in 1993. The 22nd-ranked duo in the nation then upset ninth-ranked Whitney Ritchie and Hermon Brhane of Oklahoma in a 6-4, 7-6(5) battle.
The Illini tandem could not get past the second-seeded USC pair of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria in the quarterfinals - the same duo White and Kopinski lost to in October in the quarters of the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships.
White and Kopinski finished ranked at No. 15 and with a 28-13 overall record, matching the seventh-most doubles wins in a single season in program history. They are only the second and third women's tennis All-Americans in school history and are the fourth Illini doubles team to play in the NCAA Championships.
Individually, Falkin earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition, while Kopinski was named second-team, and freshman Audrey O'Connor was Illinois' Sportsmanship Award recipient.
The Fighting Illini ended the season ranked 45th in the nation and fourth in the region.