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Illinois women’s tennis prepares for weekend homestand

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Illinois' Louise Kwong hits a backhand against Nebraska at the Atkin's Tennis Center on April 3. With a two-match winning streak, Illinois hosts Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.

Illinois' Louise Kwong hits a backhand against Nebraska at the Atkin's Tennis Center on April 3. With a two-match winning streak, Illinois hosts Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Louise Kwong hits a backhand against Nebraska at the Atkin's Tennis Center on April 3. With a two-match winning streak, Illinois hosts Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.

Christian Evans, Staff writer

After concluding its Big Ten road trip, the Illinois women’s tennis team will return home to play Ohio State and Penn State.

Ohio State (21-2, 7-0) is ranked No. 4 in the nation and has won seven straight matches.

Head coach Evan Clark said there are still things the Illini need to tighten up before playing the Buckeyes on Friday.

“(Last weekend), I was disappointed with just doubles in general,” Clark said. “We were not being aggressive from the get-go and that ruins the flow of the match. Sunday we came out strong in singles and then we struggled maintaining the momentum. We need to continue to have a little bit more sense of urgency.”

Ohio State has outscored its conference foes 53-1, and six of its players have an ITA ranking in singles.

Clark said that his team is prepared since it has played a tough schedule all year.

“We have played some of the best teams in the country,” Clark said. “That was the whole point of playing the schedule like that, so when we get to a team like Ohio State, we are ready for them.”

One of those six ranked Buckeyes players is Francesca Di Lorenzo. She has won 12-straight singles matches and is 17-1 overall on the season.

Senior Louise Kwong will face Di Lorenzo, and the Illini’s No. 1 singles player said that she knows she has to be aggressive.

“I need to swing free and be offensive,” Kwong said. “I have nothing to lose, so there is no pressure there. I just need to go for my shots.”

Ohio State seniors Ferny Angeles Paz and Sandy Niehaus are both 17-1 in singles on the season, while fellow senior Miho Kowase is 18-0.

Illinois senior Alexis Casati, who has won five singles matches in a row, said that an important key to beating the Buckeyes in singles is in fact the doubles point.

“The doubles point is still really big for us,” Casati said. “It will help us a lot, especially since their singles lineup is deeper than some of the teams we have played recently. But I think that we match up well against them, and I feel confident in what we can do.”

After its match against Ohio State on Friday, Illinois will play Penn State on Sunday.

Penn State (5-12, 2-5) has lost four matches in a row with the most recent defeat coming against Iowa.

Clark said that with time in between its two matches, the team will be prepared for Penn State.

“We always take it one match at a time,” Clark said. “Obviously when you play the No. 4 team in the country on your courts, you put maybe a little more emphasis on that. But we have that day in between to reset and get ready for Penn State.”

clevans2@dailyillini.com

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