Illinois women’s tennis defeats No. 1 doubles team to cap off historic ITA doubles run

Sophomore+Megan+Heuser+receives+the+ball+from+doubles+partner%2C+junior+Kate+Duong%2C+during+their+doubles+match+against+Rutgers+on+March+27.+

Sidney Malone

Sophomore Megan Heuser receives the ball from doubles partner, junior Kate Duong, during their doubles match against Rutgers on March 27.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

After proving themselves to be the best duo in the Midwest, junior Kate Duong and sophomore Megan Heuser headed to San Diego this Wednesday to try their hand at ITA Nationals. Upping the stakes once more, Duong and Heuser were now up against tougher opponents and elevated pressure.

Although each and every team at Nationals were undoubtedly elite in their own right, luck of the draw had Duong and Heuser starting their Nationals run against the No.1 doubles team in the country. Also a junior-sophomore duo, Carol Lee and Kate Sharabura of Georgia Tech had just won a Regional Championship of their own and by all accounts were the favorite to come out on top of the National Championship as well.

Duong and Heuser took this matchup in stride, however, as they have always maintained that every opponent they will face at major tournaments are the best of the best. 

“You never want to underestimate your opponent,” Duong said. “Especially in this competition where everyone is going to be good. You know you are going to play quality teams so if you have that underdog mentality it helps you play your best tennis.”

This kind of mentality helped the duo in their Regional run and it delivered once more against Lee and Sharabura. After jumping out to an early lead, Duong and Heuser carried that momentum through the entire match. Sweeping the first set and dropping just two games in the second set enroute to a 6-0, 6-2 victory in their toughest match of the season.

Duong and Heuser had a day’s rest before jumping into their next match in the round of 16. Facing off against juniors Jaedan Brown and Kari Miller of Michigan, the Illini’s competition was as stark as ever. The duo qualified for Nationals by being runner-up at the ITA All-American tournament earlier this October, meaning they did not compete in the Regional doubles draw. Additionally, Brown qualified for singles draw after winning the Regional Singles Championship. 

Unfortunately for Illinois, this is where Duong and Heuser’s historic run came to a close. After falling behind in the first set, the duo fought an uphill battle that few could surmount. Brown and Miller closed out the first set 6-3 before claiming the second set 6-1. 

During their run against their toughest opponents of the season, Duong and Heuser managed to go 6-1. Beating out elite duos in the Midwest Regional as well as knocking off the top seeded duo at Nationals. To top it all off, Duong and Heuser etched their names in Illinois history as just the third duo to qualify for the ITA National Championship

Illinois women’s tennis will close out their fall season this Sunday as they host the USTA/ITF Women’s 15k tournament at Atkins Center.

 

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