Illinois women’s tennis snag huge road wins at Iowa, Nebraska to keep up pressure in Big Ten race


Sidney Malone

Junior Josie Frazier eyes the ball during her singles match against Rutgers on March 27. Frazier won her singles match against Nebraska, 6-2, 4-6 and 6-4, with that matching ultimately ending the competition with an Illini victory against the Cornhuskers 4-3.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Winning on the road is never easy, regardless of the sport. In spite of the struggles Illinois women’s tennis has had when away this season, the team came up big this weekend in Big Ten play with two wins at Iowa and Nebraska.

Despite having a nearly perfect home record, the Illini were 1-5 on the road heading into this weekend. A big concern this season has been how to bring their home success with them when traveling. Illinois has been nearly unstoppable in Urbana and began the weekend with a match against a struggling Iowa team.

Friday ended up being a great start for Illinois, as it managed to leave Iowa City with a win and snap its losing streak on the road, making it their second win away from home all season and their fourth win in the conference.

Iowa, on the other hand, were handed their 12th loss of the season and their fifth loss in Big Ten play.

Doubles play saw Illinois come out with its usual strongest lineup. Court 1 was won by the duo of sophomore Kate Duong and freshman Megan Heuser, who defeated the Hawkeye duo of Samantha Gillas and Michelle Bacalla, 6-3.

The clinching point to win doubles was won by the Illini’s Court 2 duo of juniors Josie Frazier and Ashley Yeah, who earned a 6-2 victory over Samantha Mannix and Barbora Pokorna.

Court 3’s match went unfinished, though the Illini team of junior Emily Casati and freshman Kasia Treiber were in the midst of beating Marisa Schmidt and Vipasha Mehra 4-3 at the time of stoppage. Illinois 1-0 Iowa.

Singles play began with a bit of a shock for the Illini, as Josie Frazier suffered a collapse against Samantha Mannix on Court 3. Frazier swept the first set but was shut out by Mannix in the second, before losing out in the third. Mannix put a point on the board for the Hawkeyes after winning 0-6, 6-0, 6-3. Illinois 1-1 Iowa.

Illinois answered back with back-to-back triumphs on Courts 4 and 1. Megan Heuser took down Samantha Gillas 7-5, 7-5 on Court 4 for the Illini’s second point followed by Kate Duong winning a tough match against Marisa Schmidt on Court 1.

Duong bounced back after losing the first set, coming back to win two consecutively to win the match, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 for the Illini’s third point. Illinois 3-1 Iowa.

The Hawkeyes weren’t backing down and snagged another win on Court 2. Barbora Pokorna took down Illini Ashley Yeah 7-6 (7-0), 7-6 (7-0) for Iowa’s second point, keeping them in the contest.

Yeah’s loss saw the end to her incredible undefeated streak in the Big Ten, but her now 9-1 combined record in singles and doubles play to this point was still an impressive feat.

Illinois clinched the win thanks to Kasia Treiber, who’s begun to develop a habit of clutching up for the Illini at the end. Treiber called game after taking down Michelle Bacalla on Court 5 by a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 scoreline.

Senior Shivani Ingle had her match go unfinished and was in the midst of a 4-6, 6-4, 4-0 match against Vipasha Mehra on Court 6. Final score Illinois 4, Iowa 2.

The Illini had a day’s rest before taking on Nebraska in Lincoln on Sunday.

In a match that came down to the wire, Illinois were able to come out on top in one of its closest contests of the season. Doubles play saw Nebraska take the lead, as Duong/Heuser were beaten 6-3 by Makoric/Novak on Court 1 and Frazier/Yeah were also defeated 6-3 by Gallego/C. Kuckelman on Court 2.

At the time of stoppage, Casati/Treiber were in the middle of a 4-4 battle with E. Kuckelman/Alicea on Court 3. Illinois 0-1 Nebraska.

The Illini suddenly found themselves down two after the start of singles play after Yeah was taken down by Makoric 6-1, 6-2 on Court 2.

Illinois answered back thanks to Heuser, who pulled out a 6-1, 6-3 win on Court 4 against Chloe Kuckelman. Duong then triumphed on Court 1 against Novak 6-3, 6-2 to even the contest at two apiece.

Illinois went ahead of Nebraska for the first time during the match as Treiber was victorious on Court 5 against Ellie Kuckelman 6-1, 6-4, but this lead was canceled out as Ingle came out on the wrong side of a 6-3, 6-3 scoreline to Alicea on Court 6. Illinois 3-3 Nebraska.

With both teams now sitting at three apiece, all eyes turned to the last remaining match going on on Court 3, which saw Illini Josie Frazier competing against Cornhusker Isabel A. Gallego. Whoever won here would not only give their team the victory, but also a crucial advantage in the Big Ten standings.

With everything on the line, it was hero time for Josie Frazier.

Frazier won the first set 6-2 but could not maintain the momentum in the second, losing out 4-6. In a tense, action filled finale, it was the veteran Frazier who battled out a victory for Illinois as she took the third set 6-4 to win it all.

With the final point secured, the Illini managed to leave their second consecutive away match in celebration. Final score Illinois 4, Nebraska 3.

It will go down as an extremely memorable day for Josie Frazier, who just a few weeks ago spoke about what it meant to be a veteran on this young Illini team.

“Dealing with the nerves that come with college tennis is an advantage that the upperclassmen have since we’ve all been there,” Frazier said. “We’ve all been there in tight moments, we’ve all been the last matchup when it comes to deciding the match. That can be really stressful and it’s something we have under our belts as juniors.”

Frazier well and truly backed up their words on Sunday. Managing to bounce back after losing her singles match on Friday, Frazier was able to put it all behind her to rally for a massive, signature performance two days later in Lincoln. Playing out what would be the deciding match in a crucial conference match, Frazier did not stumble in the face of pressure.

The team sits in fourth place in the Big Ten but are keeping pace at the top, as a slip up from any of the higher placed teams could see Illinois claim the first place spot.

Now 5-1 in conference play, the title challenge is officially on the Illini.

Illinois (12-6 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) will return home to play Purdue (10-7 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) this coming Friday, followed by a trip to University Park two days later to take on Penn State (8-9 overall, 2-3 B1G).

Now on a strong four-game winning streak, the Illini are looking to win it all with the wind in their sails.



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