Illinois women’s tennis gears up for big home test against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame


Photo courtesy of Della Perrone / Illinois Athletics

Senior Emily Casati hits a backhand against Indiana on March 20, 2021. Casati’s sister, Alexis Casati, is the associate head coach for Georgia Tech, meaning the matchup on Friday will feature a sibling rivalry.

By James Barrowman, Staff Writer

Friday marks the first time Illinois women’s tennis will play a match at Atkins Tennis Center this season, where the team will face off against two teams receiving votes in the latest ITA poll — Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. Friday’s matchup will also include a sibling rivalry, as Emily Casati’s sister, Alexis Casati, is the associate head coach for Georgia Tech.

The matches against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame continue a trend that head coach Evan Clark has been repeating during his time at Illinois: facing off against difficult opponents in order to strengthen the team as a whole. It’s a sentiment he preached after last weekend’s losing match against No. 3 NC State and subsequent win against Furman. 

“We never want to lose, but it did give us a little bit more belief and confidence that we can play with anybody in the country,” Clark said. “It was a good thing for our team to go through for sure, and I just love where we’re at. I keep telling the team about that, but I love where we’re at.”

Of course, the loss to NC State came while on the road, but the Illini will be hosting this weekend’s match, which gives the team a good advantage against the Yellow Jackets and Fighting Irish. Over the past five years, the Illini have accumulated a record of 29-8 while playing at Atkins Tennis Center, and Clark hopes that the home-court advantage will play a part in this weekend’s matches as well.

“We don’t lose much at Atkins,” Clark said. “I think our courts are a tough place to play. Hopefully we get a good crowd out there, but most importantly, our team is used to it. It’s a nice feeling (playing at home).”

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    One advantage the Illini may not have is familiarity with their opponents. The team has only played Georgia Tech once — in the 2007 season where they were routed 7-0 by the then-No. 1 Yellow Jackets. The last match against Notre Dame was in 2019, where Illinois walked away with a 4-3 win, but Notre Dame leads in the all-time series with a 9-29 record. With both being top 25 teams, the Illini will be underdogs for both matches this weekend. 

    All eight players who participated in the ITA Weekend Kickoff will be participating in the matches on Friday and Sunday. Last time out, the team’s best player was senior Josie Frazier, who had a dominant performance in doubles and singles on both Saturday and Sunday. Frazier was the only Illinois player on Saturday who did not lose a set against NC State in a match that saw Illinois bested 4-0, and she continued that streak against Furman to get the 4-0 win on Sunday. 

    The Illini will not have an easy weekend, but both matches will be a good test for a team that’s been consistently eager to improve their game. Facing off at home against two opponents who have historically bested the team will provide a good advantage for the Illini to steal a win as the underdogs. 


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