Women’s tennis team bounces back from Puerto Rico slump to defeat MSU



By Bret Greenberg

Storms and shaky play in Puerto Rico couldn’t derail the Illini women’s tennis team as they took care of business on the road against the Spartans on Sunday to stay perfect in the Big Ten at 2-0.

A change in the doubles lineup proved to be the difference maker in Illinois’ 4-3 victory against Michigan State (9-6). The Illini (6-6) have won the doubles point only twice this season, which forced head coach Michelle Dasso to mix up the lineup.

“The doubles point has really been troublesome for us this season,” sophomore Kristina Minor said. “But with the new lineups we did a much better job matching up each player’s strengths.”

Illinois had a new look on all three doubles courts. On court two, redshirt freshman Leigh Finnegan and freshman Marisa Lambropoulos had a 9-7 come-from-behind victory to start off doubles. This was the first doubles match the two have played together.

“We communicated with each other well and we were both able to get to the net well also,” Finnegan said. “We kind of struggled early, going down 7-5. We knew if we wanted to win we had to break them, and we managed to pull it out.”

With the victory Sunday, Illinois doubled its win total in the Big Ten and surpassed its overall win total from last season.

The week did not start off as smoothly as it ended for the Illini when their match against No. 12 North Carolina in Puerto Rico was canceled due to rain. The rain also moved the team’s match against Princeton to Wednesday, in which Illinois did not come ready to play. The Tigers defeated the Illini 4-3.

“That was the poorest performance we have had as a team thus far,” Dasso said. “But we definitely learned from this. Looking forward, we can’t ever underestimate a team. We always have to go out there and work hard to come away with the victory.”

A bright spot came from Illinois sophomore Megan Fudge, who stopped No. 75 Melissa Saiontz in her tracks to win 6-3, 6-4.

Illinois ends its long road swing this weekend with two Big Ten matches at the Atkins Tennis Center. Wisconsin comes to town Saturday, followed by No. 1 ranked Northwestern on Sunday. Both matches are set to start at noon.

“It feels great to be perfect in the Big Ten right now, but we have tough teams coming up,” Dasso said. “We have some momentum now but there is still work to do to get ready for the weekend.”