Newly ranked tennis heads to Washington

By Bret Greenberg

For the first time since 2006, the Illini have the Big Ten Player of the Week and are ranked as a team. Both coaches and players agree the Illini are on the right track heading into Washington on Sunday to take on the Huskies.

Sophomore Megan Fudge, recipient of the Big Ten Player of the Week award, heard the news Wednesday.

“I am very happy and honored for this,” said Fudge. “Also, I am very surprised.”

Fudge is the first athlete to accomplish this task since Macall Harkins almost two years ago. The award reflected her all-around play in both Illini victories last weekend, including an upset of No. 60 DePaul. Fudge, along with freshman Leigh Finnegan, won their doubles match in convincing fashion 8-3.

Their success in doubles did not immediately translate into singles play, as Fudge dropped her first set 6-2, but the sophomore stormed back to win her second two sets 6-4, 6-1.

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    “For Meg, that award should read ‘Big Ten Fighter of the Week,'” coach Michelle Dasso said. “I don’t think it will be the last time she gets that award.”

    With the upset of the Blue Devils last weekend, Illinois (4-3) climbed into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 75 rankings for the first time since its appearance nearly two years ago. The Illini sit in the No. 68 spot, 20 behind the Huskies.

    “For us, the ranking means something in that you can see the results of our hard work,” said Fudge. “But we are aiming for top 42 so we can qualify for Nationals.”

    The victory over the DePaul marked the first ranked win of the season for the Illini.

    “Last weekend was great for us because the players got a little confidence,” said Dasso. “If we fight as hard as we did last weekend, then I feel confident about (Sunday).”

    This week the Illini have been working to find a winning combination for doubles. In order to win the important doubles point, the Illini have been trying to field a more competitive No. 3 team.

    “We are all going to have to decide to step up together if we want to continue to move forward this weekend,” junior Shivani Dave said.

    The match against the Huskies (6-1) is scheduled for 2 p.m.