Illini to face top ranked teams

Illini to face top ranked teams

By Harini Ganesh

The Illini women’s tennis team is set to play two matches on the road this weekend against two top-25 teams: No. 19 William and Mary on Friday and No. 23 Wake Forest on Sunday.

“I hope we’ve improved and learned something,” Illinois head coach Sujay Lama said. “We want to compete the best we can. My only expectation is that we have energy and compete just as we do at home.”

The Illini are 4-1 so far this season, their sole loss coming from then-No. 19 Tennessee, whom they played on the road. This past weekend’s home wins have been against lesser-ranked teams; the team is looking forward to this opportunity to play top-25 teams.

“Last weekend gave us some confidence,” senior and captain Brianna Knue said. “We really have to produce a lot of energy for ourselves and bring the intensity.”

William and Mary (5-1) is home to the nation’s 11th ranked singles player, Megan Moulton-Levy. Illinois knows it is facing tough competition but sees the match as an opportunity to put into effect all that the players have been working on.

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Knue has been working on being more consistent and knows she cannot give away points whether she is playing teams with better players or not.

“I’ve been working on establishing myself early in the match and on being aggressive,” she said. “I want to force them to make more errors and put them in a situation that they don’t want to be in.”

Illinois played Wake Forest last year at home and lost 5-2. Junior Emily Wang played them and knows by experience the Demon Deacons are a good team. Despite this fact, she said she is looking forward to measuring herself and the team against her opponent.

So far the goal for Illinois is to go out there and give its best. Lama said the team has been improving every week and wants the women to be a fighting team. He sees the main problem for the team is its mental mistakes. Losing points to double faults shows a lack of confidence and sloppiness, he said.

“We have to really embrace the pressure,” he said. “We have to thrive on it and be better. The real expectation is if we can execute on pressure.”

Knue is excited to play a good team. Just as with Wang, she wants to use this match to measure their ability against their opponents and get motivated.

“Anyone can win any day,” she said. “If we want it more than them, we just have to bring the intensity. Every match counts and we just have to take it.”