Rachael White and Melissa Kopinski took down four nationally ranked opponents, including two in the top 10, on their way to the Riviera/ ITA quarterfinals.
Oct. 16, 2012
By Dan Longo, Sports Information
When women's tennis partners Rachael White and Melissa Kopinski played in their first-round match of the qualifier for the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif., they were facing a duo from Florida, the 2012 NCAA championship team.
On top of that, the senior-sophomore tandem was playing together for the first time in nearly a year. But that did not scare the two Illini, who took advantage of the opportunity to prove themselves against some of the nation's best.
White and Kopinski claimed an 8-6 win in opening-round action, knocking off Florida's Sofie Oyen and Alexandra Cercone, who were ranked 29th in the nation and seeded eighth in the draw.
"Getting that win was pretty crucial in how we did in the tournament, knowing that if we beat them, we could beat basically anyone," Kopinski said. "So from there, we just kind of took it and ran with it."
Ran with it they did, as the Illini rattled off five victories - four over nationally ranked teams, including two in the top 10, en route to the tournament's quarterfinals.
"We knew that every match was going to be a tough match, a tough team," White said. "I just wanted to make the main draw, and that was one of our goals. It's great that we achieved it. We had a great run."
After their opening win, the Illini duo defeated two more teams to qualify for the main draw. White and Kopinski captured an 8-5 victory over No. 44 Nazari Urbina and Sun Wen of Texas A&M and followed up just a few hours later with an 8-6 victory to send Marshall's Dominika Zaprazna and Maria Voscekova packing.
White, the big hitter, and Kopinski, the strong defensive player, have been successful by complementing each other.
"I'm more aggressive from the net and really like to be at the net," White said. "And she's an unbelievable baseliner. She can play with anyone in the country when it comes to rallying and being back at the baseline."
Kopinksi, who also played in the qualifying rounds of singles, and White proved they could hold their own against the nation's top teams.
Carrying momentum, White and Kopinski defeated No. 9 Stacey Tan and Ellen Tay of Stanford, 8-5. The Orange and Blue pair added another 8-5 victory over No. 6 Samantha Adams and Kenna Kilgo of Texas Tech. White and Kopinski's run stopped in the quarterfinals with an 8-4 loss to the top-ranked team in the nation, Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian.
The Orange and Blue duo is confident, but they know they can improve as they gain more chemistry playing together. White and Kopinski played only six matches together last season, including a run to the semifinals in the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional.
With a strong start to the season, the duo has high expectations, including the goal to play in front of the Illini home crowd in Urbana at the 2013 NCAA Tennis Championships.
"The fall is just setting us up for the spring," White said. "It's getting us a lot of matches under our belts and really, since we haven't played as much, helping us feel each other out and getting used to each other."