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

No. 24 Illinois defeats Tulsa, drops 2 matches at Blue Gray Tennis Classic

Anne Schmidt
Fifth year Josie Frazier and junior McKenna Schaefbauer in a doubles match against Mississippi on Feb. 11. The game remained unfinished due to two other Illinois wins in doubles.

No. 24 Illinois women’s tennis traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, over the weekend to participate in the 76th annual Blue Gray Tennis Classic. Junior Kida Ferrari, who is from Alabama, grew up playing on the same courts where the tournament took place, so it felt good for her to be back in a familiar setting.

“I was just really comfortable on the courts because obviously I’ve played there so much,” Ferrari said. “It was just another sense of comfort for me and I was able to play really freely compared to going somewhere that I haven’t been before.”

To kick off the tournament, Illinois, which was riding a four-match winning streak, was matched up with Tulsa. In doubles, the Illini split the first two doubles matches at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. The doubles point came down to the top court, and the pairing of junior Megan Heuser and freshman Alice Xu didn’t disappoint. The tandem continued their successful season by squeaking out a 7-6 win (7-5 in the tiebreak) over their Tulsa counterparts to clinch the doubles point for the Illini.

In singles, the team quickly stepped on any hopes of Tulsa pulling off a comeback. Sophomore McKenna Schaefbauer, fifth-year Josie Frazier and Ferrari all pulled off straight-set wins at the No. 4, 5 and 6 positions to win the match for the Illini 4-0. None of them dropped more than five total games in their wins. Head coach Evan Clark was pleased with how all three players stepped up and closed the match for the Illini.

“They did a great job,” Clark said. “We were outside in tough conditions. I feel like they handled the conditions a little bit better. Made a ton of balls, and all three matches came down to a lot of big points, deuce points.”

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On Friday night, Illinois advanced to take on No. 36 Alabama. In doubles, the Crimson Tide won two of the three matches to claim the doubles point. The Illini’s sole win came at the No. 2 position with Schaefbauer and sophomore Violeta Martinez winning 6-3.

The match against Alabama was split into two days, with singles picking up on Saturday morning. While a match being split over multiple days might bother some players, Ferrari embraced the opportunity for a fresh start the next day. 

“With my experience, I didn’t play my best tennis during doubles at night,” Ferrari said. “Being able to come off the court, sleep it off and come back the next day was really helpful for me. I always like to reset anyway even if I have singles right after. I always do kind of like a factory reset in my mind. It doesn’t bother me at all. It was pretty helpful in that case.”

In singles, Alabama continued its strong performances from the night before, winning the top three singles positions to defeat the Illini 4-1. For Illinois, Frazier was the sole victor in singles. Despite their losses, Heuser and junior Kasia Treiber played the Crimson Tide closely, falling in tough three-set matches.

Illinois suited up against No. 59 Wake Forest to finish out the tournament. The team bounced back from their doubles loss earlier on Friday with two victories by Heuser/Xu and Frazier/Ferrari. However, their strong doubles performance did not translate into singles. Frazier, who was undefeated this season at the No. 5 position, lost 6-3, 7-5 for the first time. Heuser was bested at the top spot, falling to No. 26 Casie Wooten 6-2, 6-4. The Demon Deacons also won matches at No. 2 and No. 3 singles to claim a 4-1 win over the Illini. Of the matches that went unfinished, a notable mention for Illinois is that Ferrari was leading 5-0 in the third set of her match when play was stopped.

After both losses, Clark gave credit to the play of both Alabama and Wake Forest but cited Illinois’ slow start in singles as being too steep to overcome.

“We just didn’t start well in singles,” Clark said. “We just put ourselves in a hole in both matches. Wake Forest, we won the doubles, which was way better, but we put ourselves in a huge hole in singles as well. Once again, plenty of opportunities, but we just couldn’t get over the hump in bigger points.”

The Illini are back in Champaign on Friday to host the Washington Huskies, where they will look to maintain their undefeated home record.


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