Women’s tennis team travels to Georgia Tech

By Derek Barichello

Women’s tennis is looking forward to a change of pace when they travel to Naples, Fla. this weekend for their first outdoor matches.

The Illini will face off against players from No. 16 Georgia Tech in a non-dual format. Individuals from both teams will compete against each other in a tournament.

With the Big Ten season looming, the Illini feel this is a great opportunity to get some matches against quality opponents.

“We want to get our players lots of matches,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “We want to use this time to get ready for the stretch run. We pushed hard this week to get us ready physically, and we’re going to continue to do that this weekend.”

The matches Lama will give the most attention to are the ones involving the bottom of the lineup. One of the things Lama said he would like to see the team improve upon is its production out of the No. 4, 5 and 6 spots in singles.

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“I think somebody will step up,” Lama said. “They have the talent. They have been focused and have worked hard. Now I’m just looking for someone to come in and make the difference.”

Lama said his eye is on junior Brianna Knue, who plays at No. 4 singles, to be the one to step up.

“I think it starts with her,” Lama said. “When she plays well, it energizes the team. We have been working really hard to get her back on track.”

Although the trip to Naples looks to be a demanding one, Lama said the excitement of playing competitive tennis outdoors for the first time this spring will help the team stay motivated.

“We’re excited to get outside,” said senior Cynthya Goulet. “This is a good way to start our outdoor season.”

Not only that, but most of the remaining season will be played outdoors, and the Illini are going to have to get used to that transition.

“When you play outdoors you have to be more focused,” Goulet said. “You have to deal with the elements. It makes you tougher, and I think it’s more fun.”

The Illini hope they can play well in the tournament and get something going, as they begin their quest for a Big Ten title.

“This is about the time we always make our run,” Lama said. “Hopefully with the win against Purdue and this tournament we can build up some momentum.”

After the trip to Naples, the Illini return to Atkins Tennis Center to host No. 27 Indiana and Penn State in conference action March 26-27.