Illinois women’s tennis travels to Kansas for two weekend matches

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Sidney Malone

Junior Josie Frazier prepares an overhead swing during her doubles match with Junior Ashley Yeah against Missouri on Feb. 13. The Illini will be up against Kansas on Friday and Oklahoma on Sunday.

By James Kim, Staff Writer

For the first time in a month, Illinois women’s tennis will be playing away from home, traveling to face Kansas on Friday and No. 3 Oklahoma on Sunday. The Illini are on a three-match winning streak and will be hoping to take this momentum into the weekend.

The last time out, Illinois defeated a winless Cornell in what ended up being a much closer match than many anticipated. The Big Red gave the Illini a run for their money, but left Atkins Tennis Center with their seventh loss of the season. Illinois, on the other hand, picked up its seventh win of the season with that triumph and will begin the weekend with a trip to Lawrence, Kansas.

The Jayhawks currently sit with a 5-4 record. Kansas currently holds the all-time advantage between the squads, winning seven of the nine matchups. The Illini, who are on a two-game losing streak against the Jayhawks, will be looking to flip the script Friday with a victory.

The last meeting between the two took place in February 2020, when the Illini found themselves on the wrong side of a 4-2 scoreline. Friday’s match will serve as Illinois’ first road match since Jan. 30, when it suffered defeat at the hands of Florida International in Tallahassee, Florida. 

Sunday will pit Illinois against No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman. This will be the highest-ranked opponent the Illini have faced all season, and an away win here would be massive.

The Sooners are in great form with a 13-1 record. Their only defeat came against the current No. 1 North Carolina, and even then Oklahoma have beaten the likes of the then-No. 1 Texas. Illinois will need its strongest performance of the season to spark the upset. The Illini have fallen to the Sooners on seven occasions and have only ever defeated them once in school history, with this victory coming back in 2013. 

Illinois has spent the entire month of February playing on home courts. During this three-match stretch, the Illini have gone perfect but must now readjust to traveling and playing at hostile grounds. 

“It’s been nice to be home for February, that’s for sure,” said head coach Evan Clark. “We’ve been on the road a couple times this year, so we’re not used to it. Certainly the matches are tougher on the road.”

The majority of Illinois’ success this season has come at home. Unbeaten at Atkins, the team has struggled when playing on unfamiliar courts. Six of the team’s seven wins have been achieved at home, and on the road the Illini are 1-3. While it should be noted that Illinois has played most of its tougher opponents the road, part of the overall puzzle for the Illini this season is figuring out how to stay consistent when playing elsewhere. 

“(It) will be a huge measuring stick to see where we’re at,” Clark said. “We’ll be playing some top teams. Obviously we’re the underdog in both matches, so we have nothing to lose. Hopefully the girls will relax a little bit and just go after it in the next two.”

 

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