Harkins wishes for Irish luck

By Harini Ganesh

After a ten day break, the Illinois women’s tennis team heads to Notre Dame, Ind., to play the No. 5 Irish.

Illinois’ last match was against Purdue on Feb. 22, which it lost 6-1. Since then, the team has been using its time to improve the doubles game and mental toughness that has plagued the players this season.

“We’ve got a tall order against Notre Dame,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “We’re looking forward to it. We have all the pieces, we just have to put them together.”

Lama added that the team’s effort in its other matches has been patchy. He wants to see all his players step up and be more effective as leaders.

“We’ve been scattered as far as playing together,” he said. “Our goal is to be on the same page when we’re competing together.”

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Sophomore Macall Harkins has been playing the No. 1 singles position for most of the season and has delivered wins or come close to defeating nationally-ranked players. Against Purdue last week, she defeated No. 100 Hala Sufi. Two weeks before, she nearly defeated No. 11 Megan Moulton-Levy of William and Mary.

Lama sees this weekend as a chance for her to measure herself and continue to build her confidence. He added that she is passing positive energy onto her teammates with her wins and competition.

Harkins has been having knee problems and is worried they might be a hindrance to her level of play this weekend. Despite the nervousness, she is confident that she will play the best she can.

“All of us can compete really well,” she said of the team. “If anything, Notre Dame should watch out for us. We’ll really give them a challenge.”

Harkins’ teammate, sophomore Momei Qu, has the same sentiments. She said the amount of match experience the team has had so far this season gives it the upper-hand in playing better teams.

“We’ve been playing good teams,” she said. “The last few matches have been really close and this is a good opportunity for us to prove ourselves by actually converting those opportunities into wins.”

Lama again emphasized the importance of capitalizing on crucial points. He said the team has been working on hitting targets under pressure and cutting down on unforced errors. He has been preaching to the women the importance of not beating themselves up mentally and sticking to the game plan.

“Whether we win, lose, or draw, they’ve got to battle every game, set, and point,” he said. “We don’t want to get distracted from the bigger picture, to finish as a top seed in the Big Ten tournament and make a dent in the NCAA.”