Women’s Tennis: Team heads to W. Coast this weekend

By Derek Barichello

After a disappointing 1-1 finish last weekend, women’s tennis head coach Sujay Lama went back to the basics in preparation for a trip to Portland on Friday and to No. 8 Washington on Saturday.

The Illini dropped from No. 35 to No. 45 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings after losing to No. 44 Western Michigan. The loss moved the Illini to 5-4 on the season and 1-4 against ranked opponents.

With the Big Ten season starting on March 5, Lama said the team needs to get better.

“We have been concentrating on the tactical aspects of the game,” Lama said. “In addition, we have worked on the technical ones, such as footwork, for the past few days.”

So far this season, the Illini have played in four 4-3 matches and have come away victorious in two of them.

Lama said the success the team has this year could be a result of how well they play in close matches.

“We are a young team,” Lama said. “There will be a lot of close matches the rest of the season and we need to find ways to win.”

The trip to Portland on Friday will be a homecoming for freshman Momei Qu, who is a Portland, Ore. native. The Pilots are 1-3 on the season.

After the Illini finish their match with Portland, they head north to Seattle to take on Washington.

The Illini are 0-3 since 2001 against the Huskies. They have ended the Illini’s NCAA Tournament appearances in 2001 and in 2003.

Last season, the Huskies defeated the Illini 5-2 at Atkins Tennis Center.

Washington boasts two ranked players, No. 5 Dea Sumantri and No. 37 Dinka Hadzic.

“Washington is a very tough team,” Lama said. “They have beaten us all three times, but the matches have been close. They have become an elite program the last few years, so it would be nice to pull off an upset.”

After the loss, Lama said he did not think the team gave the effort needed to beat a ranked opponent.

This weekend, Lama said he is going to reward junior Pavlina Akritas with a starting spot at the No. 6 position in singles.

“Pavlina has been one of our best practice players,” Lama said. “She deserves the opportunity; maybe she’ll be the missing piece to the puzzle.”

One player who continues to shine in the lineup is senior Cynthya Goulet. She started the season ranked No. 111 but has moved up to No. 36 in the latest ITA rankings.

She has not lost a match this spring and has defeated five ranked players.

“Cynthya is on a roll,” Lama said. “She comes to practice every day with a very professional approach. Her effort is very consistent and she is a great model for the younger players on our team.”

In the latest rankings, junior Brianna Knue and freshman Macall Harkins remain the lone ranked doubles team for the Illini.

The team dropped from No. 54 to No. 58.