Success in singles leads women’s tennis against Purdue

By Bret Greenberg

Strong singles play made the difference for the Illini in their 4-3 victory against Purdue on Saturday.

The No. 65 Illini (5-4) started a perfect 1-0 in Big Ten conference play, equaling their total Big Ten win count from the 2006-07 season.

“It feels great to win our first Big Ten match,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “It’s a relief to have the first one under our belt.”

Last season, Illinois went 1-9 in the conference, notching its only Big Ten victory against Wisconsin.

“This victory today definitely gives us confidence, especially after only beating Wisconsin last year,” assistant coach Dave Emery said. “But we can’t be satisfied.”

The Illini came out flat, dropping the doubles point to the Boilermakers early on. The doubles point has been a sore spot for the Illini all season.

“We definitely did not do so hot in doubles today,” sophomore Kristina Minor said. “But everyone fought like crazy in singles to pull out the victory.”

The Illinois team lost two of the three doubles matches. However, on court three, freshman Annie McCarthy and senior Alejandra Meza Cuadra were victorious against the Boilermakers 8-5.

“It was great to see a win on court three, and we were right with them losing 8-6 on court one,” Dasso said. “But we can’t get complacent at the doubles point. We can’t always expect to win four singles matches.”

Dasso said that when the team gives up the doubles point at the beginning of the dual, it puts a lot of pressure on the women to perform well in singles.

Which they did.

Illinois went down 2-0, losing the doubles point and the first singles point before firing back and winning the next four singles matches.

Junior Shivani Dave’s three-set victory against Joanna Craven gave the Illini the fourth point to seal the victory.

“I tried to stay focused on the third set and not think about the score,” Dave said. “I knew I had to get a good start and not get down early.”

Dave stormed out to a 5-0 lead in the third set and only gave up one point before closing out the match 6-1.

Dasso said the team battled Purdue the whole game, and players fed off each other’s hard work and tenacity.

Sophomore Megan Fudge’s 4-6, 6-7 loss to Purdue’s Brooke Beier closed out Saturday’s match.

Dasso said the team saw how hard she was fighting, and the players used that as inspiration to pick up the come-from-behind victory against the Boilermakers.

“We knew coming out here that we needed to be aggressive against this team,” Dave said. “We all believed in ourselves, and it was a great team effort.”