Women’s tennis earns 4th place at Blue Gray Tennis Classic

It was an up-and-down weekend for the Illinois women’s tennis team at the Blue Gray Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala. The Illini played three matches in two days, taking down No. 40 Princeton on Saturday morning before losing a close match to No. 20 Alabama that afternoon. The Illini were then defeated by No. 33 Arizona on Sunday in the third-place match.

In their first match of the weekend against Princeton, the Illini played one of their best matches of the season, winning in singles 4-0. The Illini were led by freshman Melissa Kopinski at No. 3 singles, junior Rachael White at No. 4 singles and senior Chelcie Abajian at No. 6 singles, who all had straight-set victories. Senior Marisa Lambropoulos also tallied a win 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 at No. 1 singles.

Later that afternoon, the Orange and Blue matched up against the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Alabama.

Kopinski and junior Breanne Smutko won in straight sets for the Illini. But from there, Illinois dug a hole with straight-set losses by Lambropoulos, White and Abajian. The tournament’s format dictates that the doubles point is played last as a potential tiebreaker, and with the Illini down 3-2, it would be up to sophomore Allison Falkin at court two to determine if the match would go into doubles play.

Falkin and Alabama’s Alexa Guarachi, ranked No. 40 in singles, split the first two sets of their match, 1-6, 6-4. In set three, Falkin trailed 5-2, and it looked as if Alabama would advance to the championship game. But Falkin reeled off five straight games to win the set 7-5 and carry the match into a doubles tiebreaker.

Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso was impressed with Falkin’s resilience after being so close to elimination.

“Allison Falkin’s play today was inspirational,” Dasso said in a press release. “She put us in a position to take down Alabama with the way she competes, understands and uses her strengths to get the most out of her game and never gives up.”

Her play wasn’t enough for the Illini, though. They were defeated in doubles, dropping two matches before the third could finish.

On Sunday, the Illini played No. 33 Arizona for third place in the tournament. They were defeated 4-0sr. The final placement matches were played in traditional style, with doubles coming first. Lambropoulos and Kopinski were able to win their doubles match 8-5. Three straight-set victories quickly clinched the meet for the Wildcats.

The Orange and Blue return to action at home March 10 against Northwestern.