Illini tennis splits weekend matches


Erica Magda

By Ros Dumlao

Even though her team lost to No. 24 Tennessee on Saturday afternoon, Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso came away impressed by the Illini’s performance against a Lady Vols team that booted them from the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

Tennessee nabbed the early 8-4 victory at the No. 3 doubles, which put added pressure on Illinois (0-1) at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles. Both matches were close, but the Lady Vols carried an early one-point lead into singles play.

Junior Megan Fudge responded with a quick win at the No. 2 singles spot, defeating Tennessee’s Rosalia Alda in just two sets.


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Tennis loses to Tennessee

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“Fudge is a feisty fighter,” said Dasso. “She’ll find a way to win. I think she’s a smart player. She knows her strengths. She knows her limitations, and I think she does a good job of balancing those two out.”

But Tennessee was able to put the match away with early victories in No. 3, 4 and 6 singles. Although the match was decided then, Illinois’ Leigh Finnegan and freshman Amy Allin fought hard.

No. 89 Leigh Finnegan easily took the first set, 6-0, against Tennessee’s No. 92 Caitlin Whoriskey at the No. 1 singles. Whoriskey fought back forcing a third set, but Finnegan didn’t back down as she earned the victory.

“She’s a tough player, I knew she wasn’t going to back off. I just had to keep taking her one point at a time,” said Finnegan. “I knew I couldn’t let up at all even if I won the first set pretty easily.”

Allin was also able to pull away with the win against Tennessee’s Junior Zsofia Zubor in three sets.

“She showed a lot of maturity for a freshman. The kid loves tennis and I think she’s a competitor,” Dasso said about Allin’s performance.

The deciding factor in the 4-3 loss proved to be the Illini’s continuing struggle for solid doubles play, which also played a significant role in Sunday’s match against Miami of Ohio.

The Illini dropped two of their doubles matches to give the Redhawks an early advantage going into singles. And though the Orange and Blue had a slow singles start, the Illini were able to fight back and take five out of six to grab the 5-2 win over the Redhawks.

“I’m extremely disappointed in doubles. We can’t rely on the singles all like last year. We have the talent, which I feel is a little more frustrating because we have to do a better job. We got to want the ball in the big points,” Dasso said. “The bottom line is we don’t need to practice in doubles. The talent is there. It’s mental. When they get to the big points they have to trust themselves and go after it we need to get over that fear.”