Women’s tennis competes in Michigan

By Derek Barichello

Although the Illini women’s tennis team did not fair very well in singles play at the Bronco Invitational in Kalamazoo, Mich., they were able to get the rust off their games.

The tournament, which was held this weekend at Western Michigan University, was the first of the fall season for the Illini. They managed to finish with a record of 14-13 in singles and 7-5 in doubles.

Senior Cynthya Goulet, who sat out this summer for rehabilitation, had no trouble getting back into the swing of things. Goulet led the Illini with a record of 3-1 in singles play.

Goulet’s only loss came in the semifinals of the Flight A Bracket on Saturday, when she dropped a match to Victoria Domina of Eastern Michigan, who she had defeated in the first round on Friday.

The highlight of the tournament for Goulet came on Friday when she bested Indiana’s Laura McGaffigan, sister of former Illini Jennifer McGaffigan, in three sets.

Sophomores Emily Wang and Pavlina Akritas also recorded good weekends for the Illini. Wang went 3-1, dropping her second round match of the Flight B bracket. Akritas, who is a walk-on, went 2-1 in the Flight C bracket.

Junior Brianna Knue, who is coming off a foot injury that kept her out at the end of last season, had a tough weekend. She came away with only one singles victory in her four matches.

Despite the mediocre singles record, Illinois head coach Sujay Lama was pleased to see the enthusiasm the team showed at the tournament.

“We have a very young team this year,” Lama said. “It’s also exciting to see these new players so excited about playing for Illinois; soaking up the coaching tips and improving every day.”

The weekend was also the first time Lama was able to see the four freshmen in action. Due to an NCAA rule on the number of practices that a team can hold during the academic season, the Illini have only had individual lessons prior to the weekend’s tournament.

“It was good to see (the freshmen) compete for the first time,” Lama said. “They fought hard.”

Illinois’ four freshmen managed a composite record of 5-7 in singles. Momei Qu and Anastasia Sokolova led the way for the four freshmen winning two matches. Macall Harkins had a tough opening weekend, coming out on top in only one of her four matches.

The weekend served as a good comparison for Illini players to see how they ranked with some of the best competition in the Midwest.

“We have been able to pinpoint a number of things each player needs to work on,” Lama said. “That’s what it’s all about at this time of year. The flexibility of this sort of tournament was ideal for us.”

The Illini are scheduled to compete Oct. 1-3 at the Kentucky Fall Invitational in Lexington, Ky.