Women’s tennis looking to bounce back after tough loss

Illinois´ Cynthya Goulet returns a serve against Wake Forest Jan. 28. Online Poster

Illinois´ Cynthya Goulet returns a serve against Wake Forest Jan. 28. Online Poster

By Derek Barichello

The goal for the women’s tennis team this weekend is for each player to improve their game by five percent.

The 35th-ranked Illini look to get back on track after dropping their third match of the season to No. 18 Harvard last weekend, falling to 4-3 on the season. They host No. 59 Colorado tonight at 6 and No. 48 Western Michigan Sunday at 11.

Head coach Sujay Lama said the Illini found out how they match up against top competition in last Saturday’s 6-1 loss.

“They exposed our weaknesses,” Lama said. “We worked on improving our focus and concentration in this week’s practice. We feel if everybody can improve just five percent, then that’s a big boost to the team. We need everybody to step up their game.”

Lama identified execution as one weakness the team needs to improve on.

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“Probably the main thing our players need to work on is getting that killer instinct,” Lama said. “A number of times this season, they have started strong, but haven’t finished well. They’re doing a lot of the right things, tactically, but too often, after we set up the points, we don’t keep our focus and put them away. As a result, we’ve lost some individual matches that we shouldn’t have, and that puts even more pressure on the other players that are still on the courts.”

Although the Illini have hit a few bumps, they continue to improve.

“We’re learning how to grow and get better as a team,” said freshman Macall Harkins. “We are just focusing on our goals; winning the doubles point, our individual stuff, and just coming out and playing as hard as we can.”

Colorado comes into Friday’s match riding a four-game winning streak. The Buffaloes lost 4-3 at No. 48 Wisconsin on Jan. 29, but since then defeated Marquette, No. 68 Washington State, No. 54 Tulsa and Oklahoma State. They are led by No. 76 Lynzee Kever, who will likely pair up against Illini senior Cynthya Goulet at the No. 1 spot in the line up. In doubles, the Buffaloes boast the 52nd-ranked duo of Kendra Strandemo and Jessica Vanderdys.

After Friday’s match, the women face Western Michigan. The Illini are familiar with the Broncos. Over the fall season, the Illini split 10 individual singles matches at the Bronco Invitational in September against them. The Broncos are 5-1 and have knocked off two Big Ten opponents, Ohio State on Jan. 29 and No. 45 Purdue on Feb. 8.

“Colorado and Western Michigan are good teams,” Lama said. “We are going to have to be ready to play. We are going to have to bring the same kind of energy we did against Wake Forest and Tennessee. It will not be easy, because for them, they are looking at this as a great opportunity to beat us at our home.”

The Illini would like to break their three-game losing streak against ranked opponents. They have yet to beat a ranked opponent this season, falling to No. 19 Tennessee, No. 32 Wake Forest and Harvard.

“It would definitely help us,” Harkins said. “It will give us momentum. We are all excited to play two good teams this weekend, and we know it would be big if we could pick up two wins.”

With only four games remaining before the Big Ten season opener against Purdue, the Illini want to get something going in the win column.

“We want to get back on the winning track and get ourselves established,” Lama said. “We want to have some momentum going into the Big Ten season.”