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Illinois faces Maryland in Big Ten tournament first round

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Illinois' Madie Baillon swings for the ball during the match against Nebraska at the Atkin's Tennis Center on Sunday, April 3.

Illinois' Madie Baillon swings for the ball during the match against Nebraska at the Atkin's Tennis Center on Sunday, April 3.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Madie Baillon swings for the ball during the match against Nebraska at the Atkin's Tennis Center on Sunday, April 3.

Christian Evans, Staff writer

The Illinois women’s tennis team will play Maryland in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Friday.

Maryland (16-5, 7-4) earned the fifth seed after having its most successful season in program history.

Illinois (13-12 , 7-4) received the fourth seed after winning nine of its final 12 matches.

The Illini played the Terrapins in March, winning 5-2.

Head coach Evan Clark said that the team learned the Terrapins’ style of play in that match.

“They are really talented and offensive,” Clark said. “They are a dangerous team that we have to keep deep in the court. We have to play good defense and keep the balls coming to them.”

During the regular season, Maryland won the doubles point in 18 of its 21 matches.

The Illini were one of three teams to beat the Terrapins in doubles, and senior Louise Kwong said they need to focus on themselves to replicate that effort.

“We need to go in with the same mindset, not thinking that they have won doubles that many times,” Kwong said. “If we go out and just play our doubles, we should be fine.”

Senior Madie Baillon also said that the team has to be ready for the effort the Terrapins will bring since the Illini beat them during the regular season.

“They are going to come out ready to play, so we will have to bring a lot of energy,” Baillon said. “We cannot go out there expecting to win easily just because we won the last match. At the end of the day, this is the Big Ten tournament, so it will be a lot different.”

Illinois will host the tournament this year for the first time since 2006, so it will have the advantages of being familiar with its courts.

Clark said that his team is hungry and that this tournament is the perfect opportunity for the players to achieve their goals.

“They still have something to prove,” Clark said. “We just have not been able to go over the hump in big matches and also have not had that signature win yet. I think it is a great situation for us heading into the tournament that we still have something on our plate and that has been our message going forward.”

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