Illini go 2-1 on weekend, beat Middle Tennessee, Eastern Illinois

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Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Alexis Casati gets ready to return the ball during her singles match against Middle Tennessee during the match at Atkin’s Tennis Center on Friday. The Illini closed the weekend with a win.

By Christian Evans, Staff writer

Illinois women’s tennis head coach Evan Clark told his team to not overlook its next matchup with Middle Tennessee.

The Illini listened, defeating the Blue Raiders, 6-1 on Friday, earning the doubles point and winning all but one singles match.

Illinois improved to 2-4 with the win, while Middle Tennessee dropped to 3-4.

Clark said winning the doubles point played a big role in winning because it took pressure off the singles matches.

“(Winning the doubles point) is huge momentum for us,” Clark said. “It allows you to win three singles instead of four. I thought we did a good job today but not a great job.”

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Sophomore Daniela Pedraza Novak and senior Alexis Casati won their doubles match, 6-1, over Costanza Magazzini and Lidia Burrows.

Casati took plenty of momentum from that win by going on to defeat Magazzini convincingly in singles, only allowing her to score twice in two sets.

“Today, I just went out with a lot of confidence,” Casati said. “I think last week was motivation for me because I didn’t close it out like I wanted to. This weekend, when I got a big lead, I wanted to capitalize.”

Clark said closing out sets is something the team still needs improvement on, even with the win.

“Well as a team, we got to three (points) pretty quickly,” Clark said. “But the fourth point was really tough and (Pedraza Novak) didn’t do a great job of closing her match. She was 6-1, then 3-1 leading at 40-15, so that’s one we have to have, and she ends up splitting. We did better for sure, but there is still plenty of room for improvement (on closing out sets).”

While Pedraza Novak did not close out her second set, she won her third set 6-1 against Louisa Zirilli and clinched the match for the Illini in the process.

“I’m glad I was able to take care of this business during the third set,” Novak said. “ I was able to come to net with confidence, which is something I’m trying to get better at.”

Clark said this was a match the Illini needed to have.

“We needed a win,” Clark said. “ We’re playing a tough schedule, and it’s good confidence for the girls who deserve it.”

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