Illini women’s tennis hopes for loud crowd this weekend

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By Bret Greenberg

The Illini hope to get a warm reception from their fans when they return home this weekend for back-to-back matches against Wisconsin and No. 1 Northwestern.

Illinois has not played a match in front of its student section since Feb. 8, when it defeated DePaul 6-1.

According to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), the Illini have the third-highest average home attendance per match and the fourth-highest total attendance in the nation.

“The girls are really excited to play at home in front of a supportive crowd,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “I think it will make it easier if we can get some orange and blue fans out there for us.”

The Illini have a winning record at home (2-1) and are 6-6 overall. They have no intention of dipping under .500 at home this weekend.

“We never want to lose a home match,” sophomore Christine Stromberg said. “We want this to be one of the hardest places to play for other teams.

The more fans we have making noise, the harder it will be for them.”

With the weather fluctuating recently, the team won’t know if it’s playing inside or outside until the day of each match. Temperatures will have to be above 50 degrees on Saturday or Sunday for the Illini to play on the outdoor courts. Dasso said that in her second year as head coach, she has only been part of one outdoor match at home.

However, the team could benefit from playing outside this weekend because the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships at the end of the season will be held outdoors.

Saturday at noon, the Illini will face the Badgers (7-8).

Last year, Illinois defeated Wisconsin 4-3 in Madison, Wis., notching its only Big Ten victory. This year, the Badgers will be looking to even the score.

Sunday will be a test for the Illini when No. 1 Northwestern comes to the Atkins Tennis Center for a noon match. The Wildcats (15-1) are riding a nine-match winning streak. However, the Illini refuse to be intimidated.

“At any given day, anybody can beat anybody,” freshman Annie McCarthy said. “We are planning on trying our hardest and giving it our all because we all believe that we can (win). We want to stay positive and never once think we aren’t going to be able to do this.”