Illinois women’s tennis transitions to outside play

By Jonathan Joffe

The Illinois women’s tennis team will make the switch from playing inside to playing outside as it travels to Tampa Bay, Florida, for a match against South Florida on Sunday.

Coming off of two straight losses against Penn State and Ohio State, the team takes a break from conference play for one match when it faces the Bulls.

While the Illini look forward to the nice weather, senior Melissa Kopinski and her teammates understand the implications of playing outside.

“Indoors there is no sun, no wind and the courts are fast,” Kopinski said. “Indoors, you can get away with anything, but outdoors you actually have to grind.”

Kopinski stressed that everyone is trying their best to get in shape for the Florida weather, which has been difficult due to the inability to hit outside in Champaign because of the cold weather. Sunday’s match is at 8 a.m., meaning the humidity will be low — something Kopinski highlighted as a benefit of playing early in the morning when playing outdoors.

Illinois will arrive in Tampa on Friday morning and will have Friday afternoon and all of Saturday to hit outside and adjust to the Florida conditions leading up to Sunday. According to Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso, the transition from inside to outside reminds the team of a long-term goal that is not directly related to winning the upcoming match.

“We’re excited to be able to go outside because that’s good for down the road,” Dasso said. “Our team goal is certainly to make postseason, and when you’re talking about postseason, you’re obviously talking about outside.”

While preparing for a tournament push, Dasso has stressed the importance of doubles in practice — her players have acknowledged that the past two losses came down to a lack of production in the doubles point. Despite the losses, sophomore Madie Baillon feels that spirits are high around the team.

“We’re moving on from these matches with a positive attitude rather than thinking that we lost,” Baillon said. “We know that we are right there and that we’ve been playing well in singles. We just have to get better in doubles.”

Dasso believes that senior leadership has been huge for the Illini, going as far as saying that the aforementioned high morale of the team is a result of Kopinski and Julia Jamieson.

“Julia (Jamieson) and Mel (Kopinski) have done fantastic,” Dasso said. “The intensity was there in practice (on Tuesday), and it all stems from them.”

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