Clark looks for team to finish strong
The Illinois women’s tennis team will face Michigan State and Michigan this weekend in its last matches before the Big Ten tournament.
Illinois will travel to Michigan State on Friday.
The Spartans (17-5, 7-2) are 10-1 at home and have won seven of their last eight matches.
Michigan State beat Iowa in its last match, 5-2 with all of those points coming in singles after losing the doubles point.
Head coach Evan Clark said the Illini will need to execute in singles and doubles.
“Michigan State has lost to some teams that we have beaten and beaten some teams that we have lost to, so I think it will be pretty evenly matched,” Clark said. “The doubles point will be a big point for us to get, and I think it will be even more important to get good starts in singles.”
The Spartans’ Davina Nyugen, Erin Faulkner and Athena Trouillot all improved to 7-1 in Big Ten play against the Hawkeyes.
Sophomore Jacyln Switkes will face Nyugen in singles and said that she enjoys these types of matches.
“I need to focus on myself and play to her weakness,” Switkes said. “Anybody is beatable, and I think with my game I can get into people’s heads. I like playing people that think they’re gonna win.”
After their match against the Spartans, the Illini will return home to face Michigan on Sunday.
Michigan (17-4, 9-0) is the No. 10 team in the nation. It has won 10 of its last 11 matches, outscoring opponents 48-15 in that span.
Illinois lost to Ohio State last weekend, who is also a top-10 team.
Clark said that to beat the Wolverines or any other top team, Illinois will have to be better in clutch situations.
“We will have to play the big points better than we have against some of the top teams this year,” Clark said. “A lot of that is mental and how you approach it, so we have to go after it a little more and not be scared to be aggressive. We have been tentative and conservative in the past, so I think they’re at the point now where they know they need to step up.”
Sophomore Daniela Pedraza Novak said the team can apply what it learned from the Ohio State match to aid them against Michigan.
“(Ohio State) does a good job at figuring their opponent and understanding what they lack, so I think we can do that as a team as well,” Novak said. “We still need to do a better job of doing our own thing, but at the same time making the right adjustments depending on what the other team does well.
The Michigan match is also Senior Day for the Illini. Clark said that playing a top-ranked team in their last regular season home match makes for a great finale.
“Playing a top-ten team in our last match is a huge opportunity for us,” Clark said. “If we were to win, that would help our chances to make the NCAA tournament. It will also be Senior Day, and we have four great seniors who will be hungry for a huge win in their last regular season match on their home courts. So I think it sets up for a pretty good ending.”