Women end successfully at Midwest Blast

By Harini Ganesh

The Illini women’s tennis team ended its fall season at Midwest Blast VII this past weekend at Atkins Tennis Center. The tournament featured a mock dual format to prepare the team for their spring season and invited Notre Dame, Louisville, and Wisconsin to play against them.

“It was awesome to play at home,” senior and team captain Brianna Knue said. “It’s so much fun to play for the home fans.”

Knue went 6-0 in her matches this weekend, winning all three doubles and all three singles matches. Going into the tournament she did not have high expectations since she had not played her best in practice. She attributed good practice to her success in actual matches.

“I guess not putting too much pressure on myself helped,” she said. “I exceeded expectations for myself this weekend.”

The tournament began Friday morning and went through to Sunday afternoon. Overall the Illini were 11-10 in singles and 7-4 in doubles this weekend. On Friday, the Illini played doubles against Wisconsin and were 2-1, with only the doubles team of Momei Qu and Emily Wang losing.

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“They need to be more consistent,” head coach Sujay Lama said of Qu and Wang. “They have to complement each other and show signs of being a formidable team.”

Qu and Wang lost the doubles 8-6 to Chelsea Nusslock and Elizabeth Carpenter of Wisconsin. Against Louisville the next day however, the team defeated Suzanna Gracanin and Natalie Laszkowski, 8-2.

“I was pretty disappointed about the doubles match on Friday,” Qu said. “We thought we would win but we couldn’t do it. I felt I was really sluggish on the court.”

Qu and Wang lost again on Sunday to Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft of Notre Dame, 8-1. Qu felt she did not play that badly against these former No. 1 ranked junior players.

“I wasn’t that disappointed about it,” she said. “I had a good attitude while playing.”

Qu won two of her singles matches over the weekend, two of them over No. 2 ranked players.

Lama felt his team did well overall, with more positives than negatives. He praised Knue’s performance this weekend, saying it was the highlight of the tournament.

“Brianna has really come and given 100 percent effort in everything she’s done this whole fall,” he said. “It just shows if you do those things and give a 100 percent, you’re going to be successful.”

Lama thought the Illini played really well on Saturday with only one loss in singles and a loss in the extra doubles match.

“In the close matches we capitalized when the opportunity came,” he said. “Friday and Sunday, I felt there were some situations when we didn’t capitalize on some opportunities.”

Some areas that Lama sees as needing improvement are the doubles teams of Shivani Dave’ and Alejandra Cuadra, and Anastasia Sokolova and Pavlina Akritas. Dave’ and Cuadra went 2-1 this weekend with their doubles matches while Sokolova and Akritas were 1-1.

“They need to battle hard and try to make a team that’s not going to be a weak link,” Lama said. “Everyone needs to be on the same page.”

On a larger scale, however, Lama feels the team has definitely improved from the beginning of the season.

“The team has done a nice job of that,” he said. “But we need to keep a similar pace from now until January to be successful.”

With their next competitive match three months away, Knue agrees that they need to be ready for the dual match formats of the spring season.

“I think we ended the fall on a good note,” she said. “Now we can really get ready for the spring season, just keep improving and be match tuned-up so we can do well in the spring.”