Women’s tennis falls to No. 23 Notre Dame

The Illinois women’s tennis team returned to action Sunday in South Bend, Ind., after a 16-day hiatus. After winning five of their first six matches on the year, the Illini struggled in a 4-3 defeat to No. 23 Notre Dame.

Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso was happy with the effort but not the outcome.

“In all honesty, I thought we were going to win the match,” Dasso said. “Give credit to Notre Dame, they played very well in pressure situations and in closing out matches.”

Poor play in the singles round plagued the Illini after two convincing wins in the doubles point. Junior Rachael White and sophomore Allison Falkin defeated the No. 3 ranked Notre Dame pair of Shannon Matthews and Kristy Frilling by a score of 8-5.

Falkin said the two Illini did not approach the match against highly ranked opponents any differently.

“We go into it like it was any other match,” she said. “We don’t really think about who we are playing. We go into it with the attitude that they are a faceless opponent and play our game. And it worked.”

Dasso was also pleased with the effort the Illini put forth in the doubles match. Illinois’ Marisa Lambropoulos and Melissa Kopinski defeated their opponent, 8-2, while the duo of senior Chelcie Abajian and junior Breanne Smutko lost, 8-7.

“Winning the doubles point against a team like Notre Dame is positive for our program,” she said. “I think that was certainly a highlight.”

In singles, however, it was a different story for the Orange and Blue. On Court One, Lambropoulos lost to No. 39 Matthews, 6-1, 6-2.

On Court Two, Falkin could never get it going against Frilling, losing 6-0, 6-1.“She came out swinging,” Falkin said. “She didn’t really give me a chance to get into the match, and I guess any chance I got, I didn’t capitalize on.”

The Illini were still in the match, however, after wins by White and Abajian on Court Five and Court Six.

On Court Three, Kopinski came up short against Notre Dame’s Jennifer Kellner, 7-5, 6-2.At this point, the overall score was tied 3-3 and all eyes were on the Court Four match between Illinois senior Amy Allin and Notre Dame’s Britney Sanders. Sanders eventually took the win, 6-4, 7-5.

“It was a really exciting match,” Falkin said. “It came down to 3-3 and we were all cheering for our team. But unfortunately, (Sanders) played tough on the big points. She got it done today and we didn’t, but next time will be our day.”

Returning home to Notre Dame, Dasso’s Alma Mater, was special for Illinois’ head coach, but she was more concerned with getting a win.

“In general, I was bummed for my team,” she said of Illinois. “I’ve got a great group and they’re working hard. I want them to get a taste of that (winning) and we will. I’m confident.”