Season ends with Big Ten road trips

By Harini Ganesh

After a successful Senior Day match against Wisconsin at home, the Illinois women’s tennis team travels to Minneapolis and Iowa City for its last regular season matches this weekend.

The Illini have won two of their last four matches in the Big Ten and hope to succeed against Minnesota on Saturday and No. 30 Iowa on Sunday. So far, Illinois head coach Sujay Lama’s plan has been to compete hard and play to the best of each player’s ability.

“We have gotten much better in the last four matches,” he said. “We competed really well against Wisconsin.”

Illinois lost to No. 11 Northwestern last Saturday and No. 34 Michigan on April 9. Despite losing to top-ranked teams, Lama said that the level of play was better than Illinois’ defeat of Wisconsin. He said he would like to “sustain the play” they had with Northwestern and Michigan and “compete at the best level.”

At this point in the season, changing techniques and lineups is not effective. The team has readjusted quite a bit this season and Lama wants to maintain a positive outlook this weekend.

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“In a way, the pressure’s off,” he said. “We’re at a position now to just go out and give our best.”

He added that the team needs to stay healthy and stay positive. Sophomore Momei Qu is still suffering from an injured ring finger on her right hand, her playing hand. She lost both singles matches this weekend.

“I was worn out mentally,” she said of her loss against Wisconsin’s Chelsea Nusslock. “I knew I was injured and gave myself a reason for not doing as well as I should have.”

Although her injury has been a hindrance, Qu said that the team’s win this past weekend gave her confidence and she is excited to play the season’s last matches. The team has played several road matches throughout the season and Qu knows to expect the unexpected and to be prepared.

“We’ve got to stay focused,” she said. “We’ve got to stick through the end and believe in ourselves.”

Junior Emily Wang is looking forward to this weekend as well. She lost her singles matches this weekend also. She said her knees have been hurting lately but does not let that get in the way of her game.

“I need to keep working on all the stuff I do in practice,” she said. “I’m going to be persistent, even if this weekend doesn’t end in a winning result.”

Lama said that Minnesota has struggled this season but has been playing better in the last few weeks. The Golden Gophers also have the home court advantage. However, Iowa has been having a great season. He added that the goal is to take care of business on Saturday and then pull the upset against Iowa.

“They’ll be playing with a lot of emotion,” he said. “But what matters is how we come. We have to bring our A-game and our best style of play.”