Women shutout against Northwestern

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By Derek Barichello

Women’s tennis found out just how good the best was on Sunday in a shutout loss to No. 3 and Big Ten-frontrunner Northwestern.

The Illini did not manage to win a single set in singles or a single match in doubles on Sunday.

“We had chances to win sets, but we just couldn’t get it done,” said head coach Sujay Lama. “Northwestern is a terrific team with great talent. There is a good reason that they are ranked third in the country.”

Although the Illini did not come away with a set, they were close many times. Senior Cynthya Goulet, who has cruised through the Big Ten undefeated, met her match in No. 3 Audra Cohen. Goulet took the second set to the tiebreaker before Cohen pulled through for the victory, giving Goulet her first conference loss.

“We are really not that far off,” Lama said. “We just cannot let them jump all over us early on in doubles. I was unhappy with our doubles play, but I was happier with singles. We came out and battled them in every singles match, but our poor play in doubles made it an uphill battle early.”

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Freshman Alejandra Cuadra, who played at No. 6 in the lineup, came the closest of any Illini to winning her match, losing 7-5, 7-6 (4). Lama said it was very encouraging to see, with the bottom of the lineup struggling as much as it has.

“I think we are starting to play good tennis,” Lama said. “(Junior) Brianna (Knue), (sophomore) Emily (Wang) and Alejandra are starting to turn the corner, which is the perfect timing. If we are able to be successful at the bottom of our lineup, it will give us an opportunity to win at every spot, which makes us a very dangerous team to play come tournament time.”

Although the Illini did not come away with a victory on Sunday, the weekend was not a total wash; they upset No. 33 Wisconsin in Madison, 4-3.

“This was a big road victory for us; we needed it badly,” Lama said. “All season long, we have not lost more than two matches in a row. After losing to Michigan and Notre Dame, this helped our confidence, and it’s important for conference tournament seedings.”

Goulet and Wang led the way for the Illini with victories in doubles and singles.

Lama said Goulet and Wang’s doubles match at the No. 1 spot in the lineup was the deciding factor in the match. Down 7-6, the duo played fundamentally sound tennis down the stretch to force the match into a tiebreaker. Then in the tiebreaker, Goulet and Wang got ahead and put it away.

Goulet, who is ranked No. 41 in the country, clinched the win for the Illini defeating No. 91 Katie McGaffigan in two sets, 6-2, 6-4. For Goulet, it was her 20th victory in her last 21 matches.

Wang stepped up at No. 5 singles with a two-set victory, breaking a streak of two games where the bottom of the lineup did not come up with a win.

Freshman Momei Qu added the other Illini tally, with a two-set victory at the No. 3 spot. It marked her 12th win in her last 15 matches.

With the 1-1 finish this weekend, the Illini fell to a tie for fourth place with Michigan at 5-3 in Big Ten play and 11-9 overall. The Illini sit one game behind Indiana and next Saturday’s opponent, Iowa, for second place.

“The win against Wisconsin puts us in perfect position,” Lama said. “We are playing now for as high as a two or three seed in the Big Ten Tournament. So there is a lot at stake in these upcoming matches. Our goal is to be at least a top-three seed going into the tournament.”