Women’s tennis falls to No. 23 Irish

By Bret Greenberg

Momentum ultimately favored the Fighting Irish Wednesday as they defeated the Illini 6-1 during a trip to head coach Michelle Dasso’s alma mater.

Illinois was riding high after a 4-3 Big Ten victory against Purdue the previous weekend while No. 23 Notre Dame was propelled by its 7-0 win against Hawaii.

The Illini (5-5) showed improvement in all doubles matches, an area the team has been focusing on this season. On court one, Illinois’ Megan Fudge and redshirt freshman Leigh Finnegan battled the No. 1 doubles tandem in the nation, Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft. After the Illini raced out to a 2-0 advantage, the Fighting Irish came back, winning the match 8-6.

“We definitely had our chances today,” sophomore Megan Fudge said. “We played them much better than last year, and I feel the score could have easily read 4-3 favoring either team.”

After a valiant effort on all three doubles courts, the Fighting Irish (9-7) took the doubles point, effectively swinging the momentum away from the Illini at the start of singles play.

Illinois came out flat, losing the first set on all six courts. The Illini were unable to fight back as the Fighting Irish rattled off three straight wins to take the dual.

“We competed well against one of the best teams in the country right now,” Dasso said. “I think our team needs to learn to play big points a little smarter.”

Dasso is in her second year as head coach for the Illini after three successful years as assistant coach for Notre Dame. She was also an All-American for the Fighting Irish.

The Illini enjoyed playing on the courts where their coach had so much success as a player years ago – and let Coach Dasso know it.

“The team definitely made a point of giving me a hard time about my picture and the All-American banner that was hanging up,” Dasso said.

A bright spot in Wednesday’s dual was the play of freshman Marisa Lambropoulos. After losing the first set 6-1, she came back, winning the next two sets 6-4, 1-0, with the final set decided by a 10-7 tiebreaker.

Next, the Illini travel to Puerto Rico to take on No. 11 North Carolina on March 16 at 9 a.m. The Illini will stay in Puerto Rico to play Princeton on March 20.