Women’s tennis loses to Huskies, struggles with doubles matches

By Bret Greenberg

Once again, losing the doubles point proved to be the difference maker for the Illinois women’s tennis team.

Following a similar formula as previous duals, the Illini battled but lost 4-3 to No. 48 Washington on Sunday.

“We didn’t start off so hot in doubles today, but they still fought their butts off to try and come away with four singles points,” head coach Michelle Dasso said.

The Illini, now 4-4 on the year, fell behind early, losing on all three doubles courts, 8-4, 8-5, 8-6. Coaches and players agreed that consistently winning doubles has been something that the Illini have been struggling with all year.

Venise Chan’s straight-set victory over Megan Fudge started the Huskies (8-1) off with a win in singles play, but the Illini fired back, as Momei Qu defeated Vanja Radunovic 6-3, 6-4, and Kristina Minor topped Aleksandra Krsljanin 7-5, 6-3.

With the first four matches completed in Mercer Island, Wash., the Illini were tied with the Huskies 2-2. But Washington put the match away, as Joyce Ardies defeated Shivani Dave 6-2, 6-4 and Tara Simpson won her match against Marisa Lambropoulos 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.

“Everyone fought hard, but we fell a little short,” said Leigh Finnegan. “It truly came down to the very last minute today.”

Coach Dasso said a major bright spot for the Illini was the play of Finnegan, a redshirt freshman, at No. 2 singles. Finnegan lost the first set 6-4 but was unaffected as she pulled out the second set 7-5. With her sights set on victory, she grabbed a break point and clinched the third set 6-4.

“Leigh stepped up big time today,” said Dasso. “She played one of the best college matches I have ever seen.”

Finnegan, who was plagued with injury last year, is making strides at the No. 1 doubles spot (12-9) with Fudge, as well as on her own at the No. 2 singles spot where she is 4-7. She is currently on a two-match winning streak in singles.

The Illini will have two weeks off to rest before they continue the season’s longest stretch of road matches at Purdue on March 8.

Coaches and players agreed that the team is fired up to start Big Ten play on the right foot with a victory over the Boilermakers. The Illini do not return home until March 23 when they host Michigan State.