Women’s tennis battles to keep No. 2 spot

Amy Allin plays singles against Kali Krisik of Notre Dame on Tuesday, April 7. She loses the game two sets to one.

By Rosalind Dumlao

Sunday marks the final day of regular season tennis matches for Big Ten teams, and the match to watch will be a showdown for second place between No. 18 Michigan and No. 33 Illinois.

Both teams are currently tied for second and trail Northwestern (20-1, 8-0 Big Ten) in the conference race. The Illini will also be honoring their lone senior, Shivani Dave, before the team’s finale.

But before the upcoming clash, both must overcome Saturday’s heap. Michigan (13-5, 7-1) is slated to play at No. 43 Indiana, while Illinois (16-5, 7-1) plays host to Michigan State.

Although the unranked Spartans (8-13, 1-7) sit in last place in the conference, Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso emphasized that her team approaches every opponent with a consistent mentality.

“We have been preparing the same type of way,” Dasso said. “We got to take it one match at a time. I’ve stressed that to them all along.

“We’ve kept (our game plan) simple every week. Every single match we’ve played hasn’t been easy. You got to be prepared to play every day. Fortunately we’ve done that.”

This weekend can go any way. With a tight race between Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern for the top three spots, the Illini are still mathematically within striking distance of first place.

But that’s assuming that the No. 1 nationally ranked Wildcats get upset in their last two matches, against No. 39 Ohio State and Penn State.The lowest the Illini can finish is third place, which is fine for junior Megan Fudge.

“We’ve put ourselves in a great position,” said Fudge, who is ranked-No. 75 nationally. “(The team) knows that we don’t have anything to lose. We’re competing for the number two position, which we’ve never been in. But number three is still amazing for us. It’s still much better than the last (three) years.”

Also leading the Illini in rankings is redshirt sophomore Leigh Finnegan, who is ranked No. 99. But the team knows that rankings won’t be key in defeating Michigan, a team they felt incapable of beating last season.

“Last season, we were just like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s Michigan, they’re a very good team, maybe we can get a point or two,'” Fudge said. “But now, this season, we’re out there to beat them.

“We’ve got enough confidence. We know we’re good enough. We can beat them,” Fudge stressed.

For Dasso, playing for the number two spot is a reflection of how far the team has come the past three years.

Chelcie Abajian has only been around long enough to know the 2008-09 team’s work ethic, and the freshman already understands the importance of the last two matches to the season’s success.”Our focus is this weekend,” Abajian said.

“We want to show Michigan and Michigan State how hard we’ve been working, that we deserve this win. We’re not letting up because it’s the end of the season.”