‘Underdogs’ face difficult road matches

By Harini Ganesh

Coming off the momentum of winning against Louisville last Friday, the women’s tennis team hopes to gain some good matches against USC, Penn State and Indiana during spring break.

“It’s going to be an awesome week,” senior Brianna Knue said. “We’re playing against really good teams, and we can gain confidence from that. The thing we can get out of it is the positives.”

USC is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation. The Illini have played several top-25 teams in the past four weeks, and thus have had experience against tougher, more competitive teams. The team has been practicing outdoors in preparation for the courts at USC and each player has been working on making her game better.

“They know what they have to do,” former player and current volunteer coach Cynthya Goulet said. “They’re ready to work on what they need to work on and they become better. This makes us better as a team.”

The win against Louisville has pushed Illinois from No. 55 to No. 46 in the rankings. Sophomore Macall Harkins was named the Big Ten Player of the Week following her singles win over Maria Klokotzky last Friday. Head coach Sujay Lama said the team has to use the momentum and feel better about itself going into its matches this coming week.

“We have to remember what got us our success,” he said. “We have to keep positive through the good and bad times in a match and play with energy.”

Despite USC’s higher rank, Lama said the chance to play the team is a great opportunity and Illinois should not be afraid to compete against them. In prior meetings, the team had close matches against Indiana and Penn State and the Illini hope to have a winning record against both to set them up for the Big Ten season and Tournament.

“We want to get a top five seed going into the Big Ten championships,” Lama said. “That’s our number one goal. We’ve got to take care of business with teams like Penn State and knock off teams like Indiana on the way.”

Goulet added that Illinois can’t take anything for granted and can’t overlook any team.

“We’re the underdogs so it’s really no pressure,” she said. “We can go after them from the beginning and show them that we’re up there with them. That’s how the attitude should be.”

Knue said the team’s confidence is up and that it has nothing to lose.

“We’re going to have a whole week to practice,” she said. “There’s nothing to worry about but tennis and after spring break, it’s just a stretch run.”