Team uses losing streak to prepare for Big Ten play

Illinois+Sasha+Belaya+returns+the+ball+during+the+match+against+Notre+Dame+at+Atkins+Tennis+Center+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+8%2C+2019.+The+Illini+won+4-3.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Sasha Belaya returns the ball during the match against Notre Dame at Atkins Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. The Illini won 4-3.

By Gabby Vazquez, Staff Writer

The Illinois women’s tennis team attacked the court in full force last week during the University’s spring break against Texas but came up short to the 18-ranked team, 1-6.

The Illini took the lead in the doubles matches, granting them a one-point advantage to start off. Doubles pair senior Jaclyn Swtikes and sophomore Sasha Belaya triumphed over the Longhorns’ first doubles pair, junior Petra Granic and sophomore Bojana Markovic, with a score of 6-0. Soon after, senior Daniela Pedraza Novak and sophomore Emilee Duong secured a 6-3 win over Texas’ duo of senior Katie Poluta and sophomore Fernanda Labraña, which put Illinois in the lead.

“We had a ton of energy in doubles – it was a good atmosphere to play in,” Switkes said. “Sasha and I really took the doubles match away from our opponents and made sure we didn’t give them any way to get back into the match. It was a lot of fun.”

However, the Illini were unable to mirror that same energy in their singles matches. Texas’ No. 52 Granic and Poluta both took 6-0, 6-4 wins against sophomore Mia Rabinowitz and Novak. Texas’ No. 75 Bianca Turati prevailed against Illinois’ No. 54 Asuka Kawai with scores of 6-3 and 6-2. Switkes was unable to secure a victory against her competitor, No. 45 Anna Turati.

Switkes said the team got off to a slow start on the courts during the singles matches.

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“We didn’t make the appropriate adjustments to win games until it was too late in the second sets,” Switkes said. “We need to be tougher across the board and show that we are a gritty team.”

Although the team had trouble sweeping the Longhorns, the Illini are going to use this loss as a learning tool and are looking to come out victorious during their next match against the University of Central Florida. The Illini move to 6-8 on the season and compete against the Knights on Sunday, March 24.

Although the Illini were optimistic going into Sunday’s meet against the University of Central Florida Knights, according to Switkes, Illinois suffered its second-straight loss.

The team fell to UCF in Orlando, Florida 4-1.

The Illini looked to cap off a month of being on the road with a strong victory, but UCF had other plans as they took two wins in as many doubles matches and only dropped one singles game out of six.

In singles matchups, Central Florida’s No. 84-ranked Ksenia Kuznetsova defeated Switkes without losing a single game.

The Illini’s lone victory came at the hands of No. 54-ranked Asuka Kawai as she took down No. 41 Valeriya Zeleva in straight sets, marking her fifth win over an ITA-ranked singles opponent.

Rabinowitz came close to taking down Central Florida’s Rebeka Stolmar but ultimately dropped the last set, losing 7-6 (5).

In the doubles arena, the No. 31-ranked duo of Zeleva and Kuznetsova defeated Switkes and Belaya, 6-1, and Kawai and Rabinowitz came a bit closer in their match but eventually fell to Central Florida’s Marie Mattel and Rebeka Stolmar, 6-3.

Illinois’ record dropped to 6-9 while UCF moved to 17-2 after Sunday’s matchup.

The Illini return back home in their next matchup against Rutgers Friday at noon.

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