The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois women’s tennis defeats Brown, Marshall, stays undefeated at home

Junior+Megan+Heuser+celebrates+winning+a+set+against+Brown+University+on+Feb.+17.
Matt Stepp
Junior Megan Heuser celebrates winning a set against Brown University on Feb. 17.

It was a busy weekend of competition for Illinois women’s tennis, starting with a matchup against Brown on Saturday, which was the first in program history.

Senior Kate Duong was still absent from the lineup with a foot injury, but she has been taking an active role in coaching during matches, most notably with junior Megan Heuser, her typical doubles partner.

In doubles, Heuser and freshman Alice Xu played a dominant match at the No. 2 position. The tandem was bursting with energy as it plowed through Brown 6-2, getting off the court first. However, that same energy was not duplicated. Fifth-year Josie Frazier and sophomore McKenna Schaefbauer could not put together a consistent effort on the top court, leading to a 2-6 defeat.

“We didn’t really execute on big points,” Frazier said. “Also, not being able to hold serve consistently like they were. Those were the main things.”

The doubles point came down to the No. 3 team of sophomore Violeta Martinez and junior Kida Ferrari. Unforced errors piled up early, causing the duo to go down 1-4. Despite the scoreline, Martinez and Ferrari battled back, bringing the match to 4-5, including saving multiple match points at 3-5. Ultimately, Brown edged out Illinois 6-4 to win the doubles point. Head coach Evan Clark cited errors and a lack of aggression as the main contributors to Illinois’ pair of losses.

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“Loose errors,” Clark said. “Not pressing enough and just not being aggressive enough at times as well. I just feel like we were kind of always playing behind in those two matches that we lost. A little aggravating, but we’ll probably make some switches tomorrow and just give it a different look.”

In singles, things went much different for the Illini. All six players started by winning the first set, including a 6-0 shutout at No. 3 position by junior Kasia Treiber. In the second set, Treiber’s opponent, junior Gabby Soliman, battled back and put up a stronger effort, but Treiber still pulled through 6-4 to put a point on the board for the Illini.

Schaefbauer and Ferrari each followed Treiber off the court with straight-set wins to put the Illini up 3-1. The final point was scored moments later, as Frazier finished off a dominant performance 6-1, 6-2 on court five, giving Illinois a 4-1 win. Despite her loss in doubles before, Frazier didn’t let the negative emotions affect her next match, even though it was only a few minutes later.

“We’ve lost a ton of doubles points and won the singles,” Frazier said. “You just have to be confident in yourself and completely forget about it. I wasn’t thinking about the doubles at all in singles. I just have confidence in my singles game.”

The Illini did not get much of a break as they were back in action the next morning, this time against Marshall. The doubles changes Clark referenced after the match against Brown were in full effect, with Heuser and Xu moving to the top position after their emphatic win on Saturday. At the second and third positions, two new combinations took the court: Schaefbauer/Martinez and Ferrari/Frazier.

Heuser and Xu continued their efficient play, easily winning 6-1. Schaefbauer and Martinez stayed close with their opponents until they were down 2-3, rattling off four straight games to take the set 6-3 and win the doubles point for Illinois. Heuser and Xu are still undefeated as a duo, and Clark said he is very happy with how the unlikely pairing is turning out.

“Their chemistry has been great,” Clark said. “I’ve just been really pleased. Obviously, we know what Megan can do in doubles. She’s been really really surprised with what Alice can do. Just super happy with her progress.”

In singles, it was all business. The Illini’s strong play continued, with straight-set wins coming from Schaefbauer, Ferrari and Treiber, who clinched the match for the team 6-4, 7-5 over Marshall’s Doroteja Joksovic.

The team’s pair of weekend wins put them at 7-2 on the season, including an undefeated record at home: 5-0. The Illini also moved into the top 25 of the ITA rankings. They’re now ranked No. 24 in the country, which is the program’s highest ranking since 2019.

 

@sahil_mittal24

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About the Contributors
Sahil Mittal, Senior Sports Reporter
Matt Stepp, Visual Director
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