Illini duo earns berth to ITA National Championships, wins Regional Championship

Sophomore+Megan+Heuser+and+Junior+Kate+Duong+celebrate+a+great+doubles+performance+on+Feb.+6.+In+a+collective+effort%2C+Duong+and+Heuser+won+the+double+draws+at+Michigans+ITA+Midwest+Regionals%2C+earning+the+duo+placement+in+the+ITA+National+Championships.

Brigida Dockus

Sophomore Megan Heuser and Junior Kate Duong celebrate a great doubles performance on Feb. 6. In a collective effort, Duong and Heuser won the double draws at Michigan’s ITA Midwest Regionals, earning the duo placement in the ITA National Championships.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

This weekend, Illinois women’s tennis traveled north to compete in the Michigan-hosted ITA Midwest Regionals. The stakes were the highest they’ve been all season, facing their toughest opponents with national championship berths available for those who advance far enough. Junior Kate Duong and sophomore Megan Heuser not only earned an ITA Nationals berth, but ended up winning the doubles draw.

Illinois faced competition from schools all across the region, including divisional and non-divisional opponents such as Ohio State, Northwestern and Notre Dame. Across its five days of competition, Illinois racked up 15 wins in 25 matches in singles and doubles play. 

Due to injury, freshman Violetta Martinez was unable to play this weekend, leaving the Illini with seven healthy competitors. Sophomore Kasia Treiber was the lone Illini to not participate in doubles play, likely to ease her back into competition after suffering a concussion in her last outing.

Senior Emily Casati and sophomore Kida Ferrari opened competition for the Illini last Thursday with the singles qualifying draw. Two wins here guaranteed a spot in the main draw, anything less meant elimination. Both Casati and Ferrari pulled through in the first round, with Casati’s being decided by a hard fought third set and Ferrari’s winning set being decided by a tiebreaker game. However, in the second round just Casati came out with a win, eliminating Ferrari from the singles draw. 

The next day featured much more action, with one round of the main singles draw and two rounds of the doubles draw. Heuser and senior Josie Frazier picked up first round singles wins in exciting fashion, as they both managed to come back from dropping the first set. Treiber made quick work against her opponent, winning in two sets to advance to the second round. 

After making it out of the qualifying draw, it was known Casati would have to face a highly ranked opponent in the main draw. This materialized as No. 71 Ava Markham from Wisconsin. Despite putting up a valiant effort, Casati was eliminated from the singles draw by Markham. 

The first round of the doubles draw did not fare as well for the Illini, who lost both of the matches they played in while Duong and Heuser enjoyed a first round bye. However, Duong and Heuser responded by getting a decisive 8-1 win in the second round, to keep Illinois’ doubles chances alive.

The next day opened up with another big win for Duong and Heuser, putting them through to the quarterfinals. A pair of three-set singles wins against opponents from Notre Dame put Heuser and Treiber through to the singles round of 16, where they were the last of the Illini to be eliminated. 

As the last competitors standing, Duong and Heuser were facing their toughest competition yet but managed to earn big wins against duos from Michigan and Northwestern en route to the doubles draw finals match. Having reached the finals, Duong and Heuser punched their ticket to the ITA National Championships, becoming the first Illinois duo to do so since 2012. 

But Duong and Heuser were not satisfied with just a doubles berth at Nationals. They put together a very convincing 8-6 victory against a pair from Michigan, earning the title of best duo in the Midwest Region.

“It’s exciting, they’re very deserving of it,” head coach Evan Clark said. “They played really good tennis for a couple of days in a row and clearly were the best team out there. It’s good for them, and it’s good for the program. We know what they are capable of and they proved it these last three days. ”

With their victory, Duong and Heuser became a part of Illinois history as the third duo to win the ITA Midwest Regional doubles championship. Next weekend they will have the opportunity to make even more history at the ITA National Championships.

 

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