Illini unbeaten in home opener

By Harini Ganesh

The first matches of the season were a success for the Illini women’s tennis team as it defeated Marquette and Western Michigan at home this weekend at the Atkins Tennis Center.

“We competed well,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “I’m so proud of them. They gave their hearts out and everyone came out fired up.”

The No. 53 Illini won 6-1 against Marquette on Friday and beat Western Michigan 5-2 on Sunday. On Friday, the women won the doubles point, but were not as lucky against the No. 54 ranked Broncos.

“It was a big motivation,” sophomore Macall Harkins said of losing the doubles. “We lost to them last year, and we were determined of getting redemption.”

The team started the singles matches well, with almost every player winning their match. Harkins was the sole loss in singles on Friday, losing to Maria Calberto 6-2, 6-7. She won the first set easily but trailed in the second and eventually lost the set in a tiebreak. She lost the match in a super tiebreak, 11-13.

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“I wasn’t playing as aggressively as I was in the first set,” Harkins said. “She was a tough competitor and fought for every ball. But it was mainly me beating myself and not playing my game.”

Lama felt that his team didn’t play its best against Marquette. Although it won most of its matches, he thought that the nerves of playing its first match of the spring season displayed itself.

“They were so nervous and tentative,” he said. “We seemed out of sync. But I give them credit for competing pretty well.”

Lama’s goal for the team is to focus and improve throughout the season. Against Western Michigan, he saw the women change their games and take advantage of their matches from the start. The Illini had lost to this team the year before, and each player was set to redeem herself from losing to the Broncos again.

Sophomore Momei Qu played the number one singles position against Western Michigan. She defeated Malena Remnyse 6-2, 7-5. Qu had played Remnyse the year before and had beaten her. Nevertheless, Remnyse proved to be a tough opponent. In the end, Qu played assertively and closed out the match.

“Going in I was really confident,” she said. “Through the first set I was playing tentatively. When she started hitting winners, I stepped it up and started playing aggressively. I decided it was okay to miss the ball and lose the point but not to let her hit a winner.”

The entire team put out its best effort against Western Michigan. Lama was especially proud of his younger players, Shivani Dave’ and Alejandra Meza Cuadra. Both won their singles matches and displayed consistency and mental toughness against their opponents. The Illini’s single loss against the Broncos came from junior Emily Wang, who lost to Reedhina Parekh in a marathon match, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6.

“They all played very well,” Lama said. “I could not have asked for more. They could’ve folded easily after losing the doubles point, but they jumped on everyone at the get-go. That was beautiful.”