Team faced tough weekend, coach Lama stays positive

By Harini Ganesh

The Illinois women’s tennis team’s record is now 4-3 after facing shutouts this weekend from both No. 19 William and Mary and No. 23 Wake Forest.

But that doesn’t stop head coach Sujay Lama from noticing the positives he saw from this weekend.

“I’m probably the most upbeat coach in the history of college tennis after losing two 7-0 matches,” he said. “But we weren’t too far from winning those two matches.”

Lama and his team knew going into the matches that it was not going to be easy. The last time the Illini played on the road was against No. 21 Tennessee on Jan. 28, whom they lost to, 7-0.

After that match, Lama pushed changes on his team. This past weekend, despite the losses, he saw what the team had learned and improved on.

“We hung with those two teams,” he said. “If we take that energy to another level and play with a lot of emotion, we can do it and take that back on the road.”

Sophomore Macall Harkins lost to William and Mary’s Megan Moulton-Levy, the nation’s 11th ranked player. Harkins was defeated 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-8), losing out in the super tiebreak. She didn’t even know she was playing the 11th ranked player in the nation until after the match was over.

“It made me feel better because I could compete against those girls,” she said. “But I was frustrated because I couldn’t close it out. If a couple of points had come my way, I would’ve won it.”

It was capitalizing on crucial points that senior Brianna Knue felt she, and the team, needed to work on. The matches were close, she said, and could easily have gone to a final score of 4-3.

“We got better as the weekend went on,” she said, “We just need to learn to close out the matches and not give our opponents free points.”

Lama hopes that playing three top-25 teams in the past three weeks has given the team experience and taught them what they need to really get going.

He said that the team competed well this weekend and, although it did just as it expected, the girls all had confidence.

“We’ve proven our energy,” Lama said. “Now we’ll have it going for us this weekend.”