Women defeated in Florida

By Harini Ganesh

The Illini women’s team returned from Miami after competing in the Florida International University’s invitational. Although the team did not win as many matches as it would have liked, it did get a good amount of match practice going into the spring season.

The team, ranked No. 53 nationally, played Florida International on Friday, No. 10-ranked University of Miami and No. 45 University of South Florida on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

“We knew early on of how the competition was going to be,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “We knew they were good outdoor teams, but we got good hitting and got pushed.”

Against FIU, the team lost all its doubles matches. In singles, senior Brianna Knue defeated Shilla D’Armas 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, and sophomore Alejandra Meza Cuadra won against Marijana Cutuk, 7-5, 6-4. Knue lost her singles matches to Melissa Applebaum of Miami 6-0, 6-2, and to Courtney Vernon of South Florida 6-2, 6-2.

“I have to give credit to them,” Knue said of her opponents on the second and third days. “They’re both good players and it was a good learning experience for me that I lost.”

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She also noted that as a team it accomplished the goal of getting in a good number of matches. The team got its nervous energy out and got several matches under its belt. Knue noted that with all this match practice, the team also knows how to improve.

“As a team we need to work on being more consistent,” Knue said. “We were bringing lots of good plays into the matches but we couldn’t close it out. We need to believe we can be good players.”

Junior Emily Wang did not win her singles or doubles matches this weekend but enjoyed being in Miami with the team. Despite her losses she feels that getting the match experience was an advantage.

“As a team we didn’t really do that well,” she said. “But it was good to get in some matches because we know the things we need to work on and can set goals and improve.”

The team went into the tournament not having played competitively for nearly three months. They had practiced during the holidays and had a full week of practice before the tournament.

“We might’ve been a little rusty, but everyone worked very hard over break,” Wang said. “Overall we’re playing better, but we do need to work on results.”

Knowing they were facing tough competition, the Illini saw what good teams are like and used it as motivation to prepare for the dual match season that begins this weekend.

“When you play better competition you know exactly what you need to work on,” Lama said. “Now we know how much work we need to do to get to that level of play.”

Although Lama credits the amount of match practice the team received, he was not happy about the quality of doubles play. The team went 0-10 in doubles the entire weekend.

“We couldn’t put points together,” Lama said. “At the end of the fall season we had picked up our game and now we need to get back to that.”

He wants the team to pick up its confidence level. Lama noticed that against the higher-ranked players the Illini were a bit tentative.

“They need to get more aggressive,” he said. “We have our work cut out for us. But that’s the exciting thing. Playing this kind of competition gives us an opportunity to see what we need to work on.”