Women’s tennis duo premieres this weekend

Two weeks after the Illini began their fall season at the Duke Invitational, senior Marisa Lambropoulos and freshman Julia Jamieson will begin their seasons this weekend at the Wildcat Invitational.

The tournament will take place at the A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center in Winnetka, Ill., due to construction at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center on Northwestern’s campus.

The tournament features No. 12 Northwestern and No. 24 Oklahoma, as well as No. 96 ranked singles player Katerina Popova (South Carolina) and No. 3-ranked doubles pairing Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton (Northwestern) — a weaker field than the Duke Invitational, which had five ranked teams.

The Orange and Blue will be one of 11 teams participating this weekend, and one of six from the Big Ten.

Lambropoulos’ fall season will begin against Illinois-Chicago’s Elisa Simonetti, while Jamieson will begin her Illini career against Illinois-Chicago’s Haley Craig.

After playing together in practice this past week, Lambropoulos and Jamieson will see how they fare as a doubles pairing against Michigan State’s Amy Barton and Olga Chernova.

Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso acknowledged the age and experience differential between the senior and freshman, but said it will pay off for this new duo, especially for her senior.

“I think putting Marisa with a freshman is going to force her to play more aggressively and take over that role out there, to dominate that court,” Dasso said. “I think if Lambropoulos can learn to play even a little bit more aggressive in doubles (it) is going to be key to her success this year.

“I think throwing her with a freshman, she’s kind of forced into that role and she knows she needs to show that.”

Dasso also said this weekend’s pairing is beneficial for Lambropoulos in her preparation in the upcoming All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif., in which she will participate with junior Rachael White.

“The main reason I’m playing Marisa with Julia this tournament is because at the All-American tournament she’s going to be playing with Rachael,” Dasso said. “I feel like there is a little bit of similarities.”

Lambropoulos said she and Jamieson are “on the same page,” and feels like they will have good chemistry.

“We’ve played together a few times,” Lambropoulos said. “It feels good, it feels like we always play together.”

Jamieson merely looks forward to beginning her college career. While the competition is tougher, her preparation has remained the same.

“I kept it similar to how I did at home because a tournament in college is similar to a tournament at the USTA level,” Jamieson said. “I didn’t really change anything because if I stay the same I’ll play the same.”

Competition aside, Lambropoulos is glad to be playing close to home to start the season.

“It’s cool because it’s in Chicago because my family’s there, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of Illini fans,” Lambropoulos said. “I feel ready to play the first tournament and get some W’s.”