Illini lose road match

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Illinois’ first road match of the season at Knoxville, Tenn., proved to be tough as it lost 6-1 to No. 19 Tennessee.

“I’m a little disappointed,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “I felt like we competed great last weekend and were going to take that momentum to Tennessee.”

The team had gone into the match knowing Tennessee was a much higher ranked, tougher opponent. The women wanted to go in with confidence and energy and take it one match at a time. They were advised not to think about the ranking and just play their best.

Unfortunately, the Illini failed to hold on to the match from the start. They let the doubles point go, giving Tennessee an advantage over them. Since the beginning of the season Lama has been working the team on improving its doubles game.

“We were a little flat in doubles,” he said. “No one stepped up and took the lead. By the time we actually got going it was too late.”

Lama added that he felt the doubles teams had become too stagnant. Although the teams have their strengths together, he is going to create a new line-up.

“We have to make changes now,” he said. “It’s early on that we have to make changes and this is what has come out of this trip.”

The Illini had to win four singles to capture the match. The sole win for Illinois came from junior Emily Wang, who won the first set against Samantha Orlin, 6-3. Orlin retired in the second set due to an injury, giving Wang the match.

“I didn’t think of it as different from any other match,” Wang said. “It’s always hard when you don’t have the home crowd.”

Although she lost her doubles match, Wang is focusing on the positive. She knows the team needs to work on doubles but added that everyone was doing well in singles.

“We need to always keep improving from the start,” she said. “We need to be determined and energetic.”

Sophomore Macall Harkins took her match to the third set. She lost the first set to Blakeley Griffith, 3-6. Harkins came back in the second and took the set, 6-3. Unfortunately, she lost the final set, 2-6, giving the match away to Blakeley.

“I went in with a lot more confidence than before,” Harkins said. “I was mentally more confident and kept concentrating on the match.”

Harkins added that the Illini had kept a little lead in the beginning. Once Illinois wasn’t executing its shots, Tennessee took the chance and came back to earn the lead.

“It was mainly us making our shots miss and giving them the points,” she said.

Lama was disappointed with his team’s inability to step up and take charge from the beginning. He said that it being the first away match of the season, the team was a little nervous. He is using this trip as a lesson that things should change.

“The way we performed was a way of indicating we can be beat,” he said. “But we can only learn from this experience and hopefully we’ll improve.”