Illini women ready for Tourney

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By Derek Barichello

Women’s tennis heads into the Big Ten Tournament in East Lansing, Mich., this weekend confident and hungry.

The fourth-seeded Illini will take on No. 38 Wisconsin, the five seed, in the quarterfinal round at 10 a.m. Friday.

The Illini’s confidence stems from defeating the Badgers 4-3 just two weeks ago in Madison.

“It gives us a lot of confidence knowing we beat them,” said freshman Momei Qu. “We know we can do it again. We like the way we match up at every position in the lineup.”

For the Illini, the Wisconsin match was one of nine 4-3 matches they have played this spring. The Illini are 4-5 in contests decided by one match and feel they can gain a lot of confidence from being that close.

“We lost a 4-3 match to Indiana, who is the No. 2 seed in this tournament,” Qu said. “That is where a lot of that confidence comes from. All it takes is one more match and we would have beat some pretty good teams.”

On the reverse side, being close to success has made the team hungrier to get over the hump.

“We think we could have been a top-20 team in the country,” Qu said. “If we come away with just one more match in each of those, we would be.”

Instead of being a top-20 team, the Illini, along with Iowa, are sitting on the bubble of an NCAA Tournament berth with a 12-10 record. Although it is uncertain how much damage a loss could do to their NCAA Tournament hopes, head coach Sujay Lama said it is certain a win would be the best thing for them.

With so much on the line, the last thing Lama said he wants from his team is to come out nervous.

“We want to worry about ourselves,” Lama said. “We know we can beat anybody; the season has proved that. We want to be fairly loose and have some fun because this is what you play for, these opportunities. So we are just going to go out and give it our all.”

The Illini are entering the tournament on a positive note. In their final match of the season, the Illini blanked Minnesota 7-0.

“The great thing about that match is that everybody has a win coming into the tournament,” Lama said. “We want to carry that good feeling into the tournament.”

Lama said it will be important for the team to get ahead early by winning the doubles point.

“They are probably going to come in hungry, because we beat them at their court and they probably thought they should’ve won,” Lama said. “We need to take it right from them at the start, by winning the doubles point. That is what we did there. When you win that doubles point, it’s the difference between winning three matches or four.”

If the Illini win Friday, they will return to action on Saturday to play the winner of top-seeded Northwestern and the winner of the Ohio State and Penn State match.