Women’s tennis stacks up against some of the best

By Rosalind Dumlao

Wrapping up the weekend with a tough 6-1 loss against No. 5 Stanford and dropping to 2-2 on the season wouldn’t seem like a confidence booster. But it was for No. 36 Illinois women’s tennis team.

“This weekend was definitely a confidence boost for the team, and I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played,” said Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso in a press release.

The Illini were part of the ITA kickoff weekend that showcased the top-60 women’s tennis teams in the nation competing at 15 different locations.

Dasso looked at the event as an opportunity and challenge “to take on a few strong programs we don’t typically come across.”

Illinois first faced No. 38 UNLV on Friday and pulled away with a tight 4-3 victory. Every court was a battle, as five of the six singles matches went into three sets.

Freshman Chelcie Abajian entered Friday’s match 0-2 in the dual-match season. After not winning a set in her two previous singles matches, the struggling freshman dropped from the No. 3 singles spot to No. 4.

Abajian’s struggles looked to continue as she lost her first set against UNLV’s Anna Maskaljun, 6-4. But Abajian didn’t go away, as she took the next two sets, 6-1, 6-3.

Sophomore Marisa Lambropoulos also lost her first set but bounced back to take the next two sets from UNLV’s Katy Williams at the No. 3 singles.

“Marisa and Chelcie came up huge for us today,” Dasso said.

“After dropping their first sets, both girls somehow found a way to win.”

Junior Megan Fudge clinched the win at the No. 2 singles with a three-set victory over the Rebels’ Nikol Dimitrova, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-1.

But the highlight and deciding factor of the match proved to be the Illini grabbing their first doubles point of the dual-match season, an area that has plagued them since last season.

“Our girls have worked so hard on two areas this year, winning the doubles point and conditioning, and today that worked paid off,” Dasso said.

“The doubles point proved to be key and we played very well at all three positions.”

The Illini, however, couldn’t keep the momentum going against No. 5 Stanford on Saturday.

A loss at the No. 1 and 2 doubles forced the match at the No. 3 doubles to be abandoned, with the duo of freshman Amy Allin and junior Annie McCarthy leading 6-5.

“We had a couple close matches in singles today and our No. 3 doubles was in control of their entire match,” said Dasso.

Illinois’ Fudge, who is now 4-0 in singles so far this spring season, grabbed the lone victory for the Orange and Blue at the No. 2 singles with a two-set victory against Stanford’s Jessica Nguyen, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

While splitting a pair matches, the weekend provided an opportunity for the Illini to build upon their doubles play and see where they match up against a couple of top-60 teams in the nation.

“It was a treat to play Stanford, who’s one of the top teams in the country,” said Dasso.

“In order for us to be the best we have to play those top teams to see where we are at. Our girls are going out there and fighting extremely hard and not giving up.”