Harkins has superb season

Harkins has superb season

By Harini Ganesh

Macall Harkins could not have asked for better this season. She went 9-2 in the Big Ten at the No.1 singles position, she won the Big Ten Player of the Week award twice, and was a unanimous decision for the All-Big Ten team at the Big Ten Tournament banquet last Thursday.

“It’s been really exciting,” Harkins said. “I didn’t think about trying to get any awards but it’s a confidence booster to look back and see how well I’ve done this season.”

A sophomore, Harkins was also named Most Valuable Player for the Illinois women’s tennis team and one of the Most Improved Players, along with sophomore Alejandra Meza Cuadra.

“It was a shining light to our tough season,” Illinois head coach Sujay Lama said. “Our bright spot was definitely Macall.”

Harkins played in the No.2 singles position the year before and despite having a consistent record, the 2004-2005 season did not match this year. She had to improve her fitness and mental toughness. Assistant coach JoAnne Russell said that Harkins had had shin problems in the fall. Unable to work out, Russell said it was simply a case of being rusty that she did not have success in the fall tournaments.

“She didn’t have a great fall season,” Russell said. “But she went home during winter break and has the drive to practice and try to figure out what happened. She came back more ready than the other girls.”

She improved upon these traits and this spring season, Harkins upset nationally-ranked players of several top-25 teams, including No.7 Amanda Fink of USC, and No.8 Cristelle Grier of Northwestern. Harkins stopped Grier’s 44-match win streak with the defeat, and delivered the only loss this season. When asked about defeating top players, Harkins said she did not even realize they were so highly ranked.

“I tried to concentrate on each match and tried to improve and learn what I needed to do to win,” she said. “I concentrated on different aspects of my game and it all came together.”

Harkins received two Big Ten Player of the Week awards, one on Mar. 15 after the team defeated Louisville and the other after defeating Grier.

“I was definitely surprised,” she said of the awards. “I didn’t know until later on in the week when people told me I had gotten the award.”

Russell added that Harkins deserved the award and worked very hard and put in a lot of effort this year.

Lama said that Harkins is following in the Illinois tradition of success.

“To go 9-2 as a sophomore in the Big Ten is great,” he said. “She’s following in the traditions we have here and she’s got two more years, which is amazing.”