Illinois pulls off huge upset against No. 7 Northwestern

Senior+Emilee+Duong+swings+at+the+tennis+ball+during+their+match+on+April+9+against+Michigan.+The+Womens+Tennis+team+celebrates+finishing+their+regular+season+by+beating+Northwestern.+

Angel Saldivar

Senior Emilee Duong swings at the tennis ball during their match on April 9 against Michigan. The Women’s Tennis team celebrates finishing their regular season by beating Northwestern.

By Will Payne, Assistant Sports Editor

History was made at the Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday, as the Illinois women’s tennis team knocked off the No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats in their final match of the regular season.

The Illini came into the day with a 7-8 record and winless in the last 20 matches against the Wildcats. However the energy was high as it was senior day for the team. Before the matches, Illinois celebrated the collegiate tennis careers of Sasha Belaya, Mia Rabinowitz, Emilee Duong and Asuka Kawai.

Although she has only been with the team for a season, freshman Kate Duong was appreciative of the seniors and all they have given to the women’s tennis team over the years.

“Today was such a special day,” Kate Duong said. “We all came in with a positive mindset because we wanted to fight our hardest for the seniors. They have done so much for this program.”

Despite a strong effort in the doubles competitions, Northwestern took the point. Teams of Emilee Duong and Sasha Belaya along with Kate Duong and Ashley Yeah narrowly lost their matches.

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Moving on to the singles competition, the Wildcats came out the gates strong. Northwestern’s Hannah McColgan and Caroline Pozo both won on their respective courts against the Illini, which put the home team in a 3-0 hole early on.

After losing on court four, the Illini began their historic comeback with the efforts of Kawai and Emilee Duong, who both won nail biters to make the score 3-2.

Josie Frazier continued on the positive momentum and won a thrilling match on court five 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) to tie up the score 3-3.

With Frazier’s victory, the hopes of the Illini were in the hands of Kate Duong, who was facing off on court two against Northwestern’s Julie Byrne.

After splitting the first two sets, Kate Duong dominated the third set 6-0 and secured the upset victory for the Illini.

“That was one of the best feelings you can have,” Kate Duong said. “Obviously my opponent was very good, and then coming down to the final stretch of the third set, I knew I wanted to win this for the seniors.”

Sunday’s win against Northwestern was the first Illinois win against a top ten opponent since Feb. 24, 2018, when they defeated No. 10 Wake Forest 4-3.

The next opponent for Illinois will be against Purdue in the Big Ten tournament. The matches will begin on April 29 at 9 a.m. central time in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

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