Boot curse targets freshmen

Kristina Minor returns against Michigan State at Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday. Minor played through a foot injury she sustained over spring break and will be in action Saturday at Northwestern. Beck Diefenbach

Aaron Facemire

Kristina Minor returns against Michigan State at Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday. Minor played through a foot injury she sustained over spring break and will be in action Saturday at Northwestern. Beck Diefenbach

By Laura Hettiger

Sometimes injuries are inevitable.

Other times, athletes and teams go through slumps believing a curse is to blame.

For the Illinois women’s tennis team, the 2007 season is proving that the inevitable injuries have been a curse placed on the team’s freshmen – the curse of the ankle boot.

So far this season, freshmen standouts Megan Fudge and Leigh Finnegan have both been forced to miss many practices and several games because of lingering ankle problems.

Now, Kristina Minor, the only other freshman on the seven-member team, has been having her fair share of time wearing the not-so-trendy foot accessory.

“I have just added myself to the ‘Freshman Boot Club’ due to the fact that I sprained my ankle during my match against Texas, and had to default the rest of my matches,” Minor said in a press release. “I joined Megan Fudge and Leigh Finnegan, who each suffered foot injuries this season, in the infamous boot.”

Minor, the No. 4 singles player for the Fighting Illini, hurt her ankle in the Texas match over spring break.

With fellow freshman Finnegan still out of the line-up, five Illini were left to take care of business one-on-one with San Antonio.

“Beating San Antonio with five players was a huge confidence boost for our girls,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “We had to focus on our own match; losing Kristina to that ankle injury really showed us a lot. All the girls played with heart.”

Dasso hopes the “heart” she saw a short week ago will still be there this weekend as the Fighting Illini face two fierce Big Ten opponents on the road.

The Illini are set to take on the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday in Evanston, Ill., and then battle the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison, Wis., Sunday afternoon.

Knowing the importance of the Big Ten portion of the season, Dasso is excited about the road matches.

“It’s our conference,” Dasso said. “There’s a little more competition, and you just want to do more. It’s more exciting playing against your fellow conference rivals.”

Dasso believes facing opponents on the road is just another part of the game.

With a high intensity level, the coach is excited to see how her team adjusts to playing on different courts.

“I think it will be good for us, a learning experience,” Dasso said. “We hope for our first Big Ten win to be on the road.”

Illinois, currently 4-9 on the year and 0-2 in Big Ten conference play, hopes to put the injuries behind them and concentrate on the remainder of the season.

“Some girls for the rest of the season are just going to have some pains,” Dasso said. “Kristina’s ankle, Emily’s (Wang) knee … “

By playing through the pains and taking one match at a time, Dasso believes the players will have a better chance of handling and defeating their opponents.

Both Big Ten matches are slated to take place at noon.

Conference play will continue after the weekend as the Penn State Nittany Lions come to town on Saturday, April 7.