Weekend ends in disappointment

By Derek Barichello

Women’s tennis went from high to low over the weekend. On Friday, the Illini recorded their first win against a ranked opponent, defeating No. 59 Colorado 4-3. Just 48 hours later, they lost to No. 48 Western Michigan by the same score, putting a damper on the weekend.

The Illini were not happy with a 1-1 finish, falling to 5-4 on the season and 3-3 at home.

“I felt like we could have won two this weekend,” said head coach Sujay Lama. “I’m very disappointed.”

Lama was not only disappointed with the results, but with the team’s effort. The Illini did not come with the same intensity on Sunday as they did on Friday, falling behind early and dropping the doubles point.

“Western Michigan came better prepared to play,” Lama said. “They took it to us in doubles and really set the tone.”

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After losing the doubles point, the Illini fought back with singles victories from senior Cynthya Goulet and freshman Momei Qu, but it was not enough. Western Michigan clinched the match when junior Brianna Knue fell in three sets at the No. 4 spot.

With a young team, it is expected to have growing pains, but Lama said that Sunday’s loss was not caused by inexperience.

“At some point in the season, you’ve got to move beyond that,” Lama said. “We need to learn and grow. It is definitely not easy, but we need to do it.”

For the Illini, it was the fourth 4-3 match this spring. They are 2-2 in matches decided by a point.

“What this weekend says to us is that we are going to play a lot of 4-3 matches,” Lama said. “It is going to be key to win the close ones. Friday proved to our team that we can win them, but with close matches on any given day it could be somebody’s turn to step up.”

Sophomore Emily Wang was the player who stepped up and won it for the Illini on Friday. With the match tied 3-3, Wang defeated Gleisy Torres in the third set of a four and a half hour match to clinch it for the Illini.

Wang did not know the importance of her match when she was playing.

“I guess I just assumed that we had won the match,” Wang said. “I didn’t know who had won and who had lost. I had no idea that it was three all.”

It was not easy for Wang, who fell behind 5-1 in the second set after dropping the first set. Wang settled down and came back to tie the set at six and win the tiebreaker 7-6 (2) before securing the match with a 6-3 third-set win.

“Sujay just came over and talked to me,” Wang said. “He told me to relax and just have fun. We have this thing where we try to concentrate on winning two points in a row, and that really works for me.”

Despite not playing her best, Goulet remained 8-0 on the season in singles. She defeated Lynzee Kever at the top seed in three sets.

“Cynthya did not play well, but she got the job done,” Lama said. “It says a lot about her and the type of player she is.”

Although the Illini were disappointed with the results over the weekend, Lama hopes Sunday’s loss will be a wake up call.

“A couple of kids just need to get better,” Lama said. “Two kids come to mind that are not up to par in their fitness for this program. For some, it is a tactical problem, (freshmen) Alejandra (Cuadra) and Anastasia (Sokolova) are weak tactically. For (freshman) Macall (Harkins) it is all technical. For others, it is a confidence issue.”

Lama said that next weekend should be a great opportunity for the Illini to get back on track when they travel to the Pacific coast to face Portland on Friday and No. 8 Washington on Saturday.

For the team to capitalize on the opportunity, they will have to stay focused and continue to work well together.

“We just need to keep communicating and encouraging each other,” Harkins said. “We just need to keep improving.”