Tennis team healthy, ready for Big Ten play

By Stuart Lieberman

The Illinois women’s tennis team will begin its fall season Friday at the Deacon Classic Tournament hosted by Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Illini are eager to hit the court after a successful first week of practice.

“Overall the enthusiasm and energy is up considerably this year,” second-year head coach Michelle Dasso said. “I think that stems from the number of bodies we have this year.”

The tournament will be played at Leighton Tennis Stadium and will continue through Sunday. The field will include Charlotte, Dartmouth, Davidson, Georgia State, Indiana, Richmond and Wake Forest.

The singles matches are expected to be broken into eight flights, while the doubles are expected to be broken into two flights.

After an injury-riddled spring, Dasso said it is time to forget last year’s standings and begin a new season fresh.

“Last year is over and done with, and we are a completely different team,” she said. “My main goal for the fall is to have everyone ready for match play and to stay healthy.”

The team did drills the first few days of practice and have begun playing practice matches, which Dasso believes have gone very well.

The Illini have a lot of young talent in a competitive Big Ten Conference this season. The team will be led by a trio of sophomores, composed of Megan Fudge, Kristina Minor and redshirt freshman Leigh Finnegan. Fudge, last season’s team MVP, had a team-leading 22 wins and is ranked 120th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s preseason singles rankings.

Minor was a solid contributor at the No. 5 singles spot last season, while Finnegan was plagued by a season-ending foot injury.

A talented signing class this year will join the team with a lot of potential. Candy Graetz joins the Illini from Mt. Eliza, Australia, where she played for The Peninsula School. Marisa Lambropoulos, from Lake Forest, Ill., was an all-state selection all four years at Lake Forest High School and Annie McCarthy, from Beverly, Ill., went 114-7 at the No. 1 singles position at Mother McAuley High School.

Experienced seniors Momei Qu and Alejandra Meza Cuadra, and junior Shivani Dav‚ will round out the team.