Ohio State outmatches women

By Harini Ganesh

The Big Ten home-opening match against No. 69 Ohio State was a tough loss as the Buckeyes toppled the No. 70 Illinois women’s tennis team, 5-2, Sunday.

The Illini lost all three doubles matches and won only two singles matches, one by No. 1 singles player sophomore Macall Harkins and the other at No. 5 by freshman Shivani Dave’. Sophomore Momei Qu lost the first set to opponent Caitlin O’Keefe, 6-4, and had a small comeback in the second set before losing it 7-5.

“I wasn’t thinking about how the momentum changed,” she said of losing three straight games in the second set to give O’Keefe the match. “I just needed to play the point as best as I could.”

Qu was playing with a broken finger in her right hand, which has been bothering her since the Indiana match played on March 26. Despite that, she wants to give her “best effort out there.”

“Given today, everyone competed really well,” she said. “Even though we lost, we still have six Big Ten matches to turn it around.”

Harkins won her fifth consecutive singles match since Mar. 5 against Sonia Ruzimovsky. Throughout the season, Harkins has been working on her mental toughness and it showed Sunday as she defeated Ruzimovsky, 6-1, 6-3.

“It was just another test to see if I can handle my opponent,” she said. “My confidence is growing from match to match.”

Harkins capitalized on points and executed when necessary and Dave’ did the same. She lost the first set to Kristin Messmer, 6-4. She came back in the second to take it 7-5. She led 7-0 in the super tiebreak, but Messmer caught up and brought it level to 7-7. Dave’ pushed her nervousness and capitalized on her opponent’s double-fault and won the next three points, taking the match.

“It feels really good to win,” she said. “To finally win has given me confidence. I knew by staying patient and executing at the right time, I was doing the right thing.”

Illinois head coach Sujay Lama said that he was very proud of Dave’ and Harkins’ wins but the team still needs to build confidence.

“The kids are fighting hard,” he said. “They care but the confidence is not there.”

The goal for the season had been to get a high seed in the Big Ten tournament. Now Lama’s aim is to get a couple of wins to stay positive.

“The others have to individually find the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It’s easy to be down and have a pity party but the mind is such a powerful tool. You’ve got to maintain a positive attitude.”