Melissa Kopinski helped lead the Illini to a solid 2011-12 season.
July 18, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini put together a solid 2011-12 campaign, going on a mid-season 12-1 run that included two six-match winning streaks to finish 18-8 overall and 9-2 in the Big Ten. The Orange and Blue highlighted the season with a victory at No. 9 Texas, marking Illinois' first win over a top-10 team since 2003 and over a top-25 program since 2010. The Illini reached as high as No. 18 in the nation, their highest ranking in nine years and best under head coach Michelle Dasso.
Freshman Melissa Kopinski had a breakout fall, leading the team with a 6-3 singles mark and a 7-3 doubles record throughout tournament play. Meanwhile, sophomore Misia Kedzierski posted a strong comeback from an injury, picking up five wins over two tournaments throughout the fall schedule.
Illinois opened the dual season ranked 69th in the nation and started off with four straight wins, including a streak of 7-0 victories over Western Illinois, Illinois State and Winthrop. The Illini faltered over their next stretch, however, going 2-5 with losses to No. 3 Duke, No. 23 Notre Dame, No. 20 Alabama, No. 33 Arizona and No. 14 Northwestern.
After the early-season hiccup, the Orange and Blue turned the year around during a spring break road trip, beginning with a 5-1 win over No. 29 Rice. The Illini followed that up two days later with a dramatic 4-3 win at No. 9 Texas, defeating a top-10 opponent for the first time since downing No. 1 Duke in 2003.
Following a short two-day break, No. 50 Illinois extended its streak with a 4-3 comeback over No. 25 Nebraska at home. Fifth-year senior Marisa Lambropoulos clinched the Orange and Blue victory for the third straight match.
The squad then took down Iowa in a home contest and shot to No. 21 in the rankings, jumping 29 spots. As a top-25 team, the Illini breezed past Wisconsin and No. 32 Minnesota on the road the next weekend and climbed to No. 19, their highest ranking since 2003, when they were ranked 17th.
With a six-match winning streak on the line, the Orange and Blue traveled to Michigan for a pair of conference clashes with the No. 15 Wolverines and Michigan State. Illinois did not continue its stretch, stumbling in a 6-1 loss to Michigan. The squad returned to its winning ways the following day with a 7-0 shutout over the Spartans.
The Illini did not lose again in the regular season and opened Big Ten Tournament play with a quick 4-0 win over No. 34 Minnesota to match their season-high streak of six wins. But the Orange and Blue met No. 15 Michigan in the conference semifinals, and the Wolverines proved to be too much to handle once again for the Illini, who fell 4-0.
Despite the disappointing finish to their Big Ten Tournament run, the Illini moved to No. 18 in the national rankings going into the NCAA Championships, just missing the opportunity to host first- and second-round action by two spots.
The Orange and Blue traveled to the Oxford Regional, hosted by Ole Miss. There, the Illini took on familiar foe No. 39 Rice. This time, the Illini came up short in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss, putting a premature ending on an otherwise incredible season.
Individually, sophomore Allison Falkin and Kopinski earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition, while Lambropoulos was named second-team, marking the first time Illinois produced three All-Big Ten honorees in the same season in program history.
Kopinski led the squad with a 23-9 mark overall in singles, including a team-best 17-6 dual record, while playing primarily on courts two and three. The Palos Hills, Ill., native went 7-2 in the conference and cracked the national singles rankings, ending the year at a career-high No. 121. The newcomer also led the team in doubles wins, going 23-8 overall and 15-4 alongside Lambropoulos with whom she reached as high as No. 42 in the nation. Kopinski finished the year ranked seventh in the Midwest Region and fifth alongside Lambropolous. For her efforts, Kopinski was voted Advantage Illinois Most Valuable Player and Player to Watch by her teammates.
Falkin tallied the second-highest win total of the season with 18, including 13 in conference play, playing at Nos. 1 and 2. The Roswell, Ga., native earned a spot in the national singles rankings for the first time in her career, climbing as high as No. 92 before ending the year at No. 123. In doubles, she reached No. 40 with junior Rachael White and No. 8 in the Midwest Region. Falkin ended the year at No. 9 in the regional singles rankings.
Lambropoulos finished second on the team with 20 doubles victories and a team-high 15-4 mark when paired with Kopinski, playing mostly No. 1 doubles to end the season ranked 42nd. The Lake Forest, Ill., native matched a career-high 17 singles wins, playing primarily at Nos. 1 and 3. Lambropoulos received the Midwest Region Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award and finished the season ranked 13th regionally in singles.
White started the season ranked 67th in singles and climbed to No. 40 with Falkin in doubles in early March. The Deerfield, Ill., native amassed a career-high eight doubles wins in conference play and went 20-13 overall, including 16 wins in dual action, playing primarily at No. 2. She tallied 17 wins in singles, playing Nos. 4-6. White earned her first career Big Ten Tennis Athlete of Week honor on Feb. 21 after knocking off the nation's third-ranked doubles tandem alongside Falkin.
Senior Amy Allin tied for first on the team with eight conference singles wins and went on a 7-1 stretch from March 24 through April 15 to help the Illini to a 7-1 mark over that time. Fellow senior Chelcie Abajian secured 17 doubles wins, including 13 in dual action, along with eight singles victories. The Commack, N.Y., native reached as high as No. 27 in the nation alongside junior Breanne Smutko, who tallied 10 singles wins at Nos. 4-6.
Kedzierski ended the year with a career-best 11-4 mark in singles action, while Jamieson went 7-2 in singles and 8-4 in doubles.
The Orange and Blue squad ended the season ranked 21st in the nation and fourth in the region.