Team faces tough home court match

By Harini Ganesh

After three weeks of playing on the road, the No. 55-ranked Illinois women’s tennis team battles No. 50 Louisville at home today at 6 p.m.

The Illini are coming off a five-match losing streak. However, they played Louisville twice in the fall season and know what they are up against.

“They’re a feisty team,” head coach Sujay Lama said of the Cardinals. “They’re very loud and pumped up. They’ve had a couple of good wins coming into this match, so they’re going to come in with some confidence.”

Lama said his team should compete its best at doubles and disrupt Louisville’s confidence. In addition, the home court advantage is a positive aspect for the players.

“We haven’t played here in a while and it’s always a lot more fun because we have our fans,” junior Emily Wang said. “We’ve been working really hard and been really positive so we’ll come out strong.”

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Last week against Notre Dame, Wang and sophomore Macall Harkins defeated the No. 2 doubles team in the nation, Christian and Catrina Thompson. Their win has shown Lama that the doubles teams have definitely improved.

Wang added that it did not sink in until much later that she and Harkins had defeated the No. 2 doubles team in the country.

“Now we know that it’s not a matter of who they are,” she said. “It’s within us that we can play well.”

Throughout the season, Lama has focused on the doubles teams and the players being more mentally positive. He feels good about all three doubles teams. He also added that the team “has been doing all the right things” and it has been hard to see his players lose.

“It’s pretty tough to lose five in a row,” he said. “Granted, they were against good teams, but we’re tired of losing.”

Harkins said she expected the team to come out with a lot of energy and enforce its goals.

“We’ve been working on how we present ourselves on court and to be professional and positive,” she said. “We don’t want to show our opponent we are frustrated and let it out more in a positive than negative way.”

Harkins has had knee trouble since the Purdue match on Feb. 22, but is feeling confident. She believes in her game and said she has gotten better since Purdue.

Wang has been working on her game style and said she needs to attack her shots more. Even though she lost her singles match against Notre Dame, she played her game more in the way she and the coaches envisioned.

“I need to get comfortable with myself playing that way and after that, it’ll be good.”