Illinois women’s tennis prepares for Big Ten foes

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Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Ines Vias returns the ball during her singles match agaist Nebraska’s Lisa Andersson. Vias won her singles match 6-3, 6-1 and the team defeated Nebraska with a score of 4-1.

By Christian Evans, Contributing writer

Illinois women’s tennis had an impressive Purdue Invite to start the year, giving the team confidence before its first regional tournament this Thursday in East Lansing, Michigan.

Sophomore Jaclyn Switkes and senior Madie Baillon won one of the two double’s flights, while senior Alexis Casati and sophomore Daniela Pedraza Novak won the other.

“Those are two teams that really gelled over the fall,” head coach Evan Clark said. “Alexis and Daniela have been together for awhile, so they complement each other well, and there is a lot experience there. Maddie and Jacyln are a new team, but they thrive off each other and won the top flight at Purdue.”

Baillon says that she and Switkes are good friends off the court, which leads to their compatibility on the court. Baillon also mentioned the qualities that makes her partner so effective.

“Jacyln’s a really big grinder,” Baillon said. “She gets every ball back; she’s fast, tall and can put those big balls away at the net when she’s given the opportunity.”

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Clark also recognized the abilities of Switkes and how she is vital to the team’s upcoming success.

“She just always finds a way to win, and that’s what we love about her,” Clark said. “Probably one of the best competitors I’ve ever coached and is doing everything the right way.”

All of those qualities led to Switkes winning the Boiler Up draw — the singles flight competition of the Purdue Invite.

This gives the team another asset heading into the more competitive ITA Midwest Regional.

“I have more confidence now, and I can hit my strokes because I believe I can win now,”Switkes said. “I’m excited to get these opportunities against teams like Ohio State and Michigan, also gaining the experience in to prepare me for the spring.”

Clark said the regional tournament is important for the Illini because it consists of fellow Big Ten members, giving them a chance to make a statement. The tournament qualifies teams for National Indoors in New York in November.

Two of the team’s key players, a nationally-ranked doubles pair consisting of senior Louise Kwong and sophomore Ines Vias, did not compete in the Purdue Invite but will participate in this regional tournament.

Vias said with her and Kwong having an extended period of time off, they are anxious to get some competition in.

Clark doesn’t see the anticipated early rust having an significant effect on them.

“I think they’ve played so much together and at a high level ever since we put them together,” Clark said. “So I don’t see that being an issue at all.”

@cevans619