Illini split ways for Kentucky, All-American

By Harini Ganesh

The women’s tennis team is splitting up its players this weekend, with three traveling to Pacific Palisades, Calif. to compete in the ITA All-American Championships, and the rest going to Lexington for the Kentucky Invitational.

“The competition is going to be a lot higher,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “These are some of the best players in the country, especially at the All-Americans.”

Last weekend the Illini competed in the Spartan Cup Invitational and came out with considerable success for their first tournament. This week the players have been preparing for the contest that awaits them this weekend.

“We want to continue to improve on our performance goals,” Lama said. “I hope they’ll improve their focus and intensity during big points and big games, so that they’re going to be able to go and play their aggressive game than being conservative.”

Lama has been working the team on decreasing errors on service and improving their first serve percentage. In doubles, the team has been focusing on reacting and acting to the ball and being more aggressive.

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Senior Brianna Knue and sophomore Macall Harkins are pairing up to play doubles at the All-American. Harkins is also in the singles draw along with sophomore Momei Qu.

“I’m excited to just have the chance to go,” Knue said. “I’m ready to play against some good competition.”

The ITA All-American is a pre-qualifying tournament for the main draw of the same event, which will take place from Oct. 6-9 at Pacific Palisades.

“They’ve just got to give it all that they have from the first point, first match, and onwards,” Lama said of his expectations. “They’ve got to play each match like it’s the finals because that’s the kind of caliber of players they’re seeing there.”

In the Kentucky Invitational, the singles consists of four different flights and the doubles with two flights. Junior Emily Wang is heading the team in flight A singles, while freshman Shivani Dave’ is in flight B. Wang and Dave’ are also playing the doubles flight A together.

“It’s a good opportunity to practice your game and get better,” Wang said. “And learn how to compete.”

At Michigan State, Wang, with Momei Qu, lost the doubles final in flight A. This week she hopes to be more consistent and set up the ball better.

“I’m going to try to give a 100 percent every single point,” she said. “It’s easier said than done but you really have to dedicate yourself to every single point and focus every single time.”

Dave’ competed in a college-level tournament for the first time at Michigan State. Right now, she’s trying to win her matches while focusing on technique instead of thinking about results.

“I got to see how I played in a college atmosphere,” she said. “I was a little nervous but I have a feel for it now and I’m more confident.”

Lama said the team had been anxious last week before their first tournament but added they’re settled now.

“I think it’s going to be fun to see them now, having now got that rust off a little bit,” he said. “They’ve adjusted to competition.”