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 falls at Iowa but bounces back with win over Nebraska

Matt Stepp
Junior Megan Heuser prepares to receive in a match against Brown University on Feb 17.

Illinois women’s tennis continued Big Ten play this weekend on the road, traveling to Iowa and Nebraska. Heading into the weekend, the No. 34 Illini were 2-0 in conference play, but they were without two players — sophomore Violeta Martinez and senior Kate Duong who were still out with hip and foot injuries, respectively.

To kick off the weekend, No. 75 Iowa knocked out Illinois’ No. 47 doubles pairing of junior Megan Heuser and freshman Alice Xu, 6-2. Despite the top tandem’s loss, the team rallied at the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles positions, pulling out two closely contested wins to secure the doubles point, their fourth in a row.

Head coach Evan Clark was pleased with his team’s overall doubles performance and their recent improvements.

“Our doubles has been pretty good,” Clark said. “They’ve been more confident each and every time, so it was a positive for sure.”

In singles, however, the Illini did not fare as well. Xu easily won her match in straight sets to give the Illini another point, but the rest of the team could not do the same. Fifth-year Josie Frazier fought hard but ultimately fell in three sets, while Heuser, junior Kasia Treiber and sophomore McKenna Schaefbauer were all defeated in straight sets.

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Schaefbauer lost to Iowa junior Marisa Schmidt in singles despite defeating her in doubles right before. She explained that the difference in outcomes against the same opponent was due to a difference in play style between singles and doubles.

“We got off to a really good start in our doubles match, so I think we carried the momentum through that match,” Schaefbauer said. “(Schmidt is) a really solid player from the baseline, so that was kind of the difference between doubles and singles. Obviously, in doubles, you can be a little bit more aggressive at the net and take your chances … and honestly, it just came down to the bigger points, and she won most of those in singles.”

After the Illini’s 4-2 loss to the Hawkeyes, they headed to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers on Sunday. The Illini had a slow start, dropping the doubles point, with Xu and Heuser losing their second match in a row. The pairing is now 7-3 this season and has been a generally positive spark for the Illini.

Xu attributed the uncharacteristic pair of losses to a mix of pressure and loss of focus but is confident they will bounce back.

“I think being ranked has definitely put a little bit of pressure on us, and it’s caused us to lose a little bit of sight of what we were originally about and how we played at the beginning of the year,” Xu said. “So I think getting back to enjoying our tennis, just having fun together out on the court, figuring out ways to win instead of focusing on external factors that don’t really have any effect on the match and more just focusing on ourselves and what we can do to improve will be really beneficial.”

Ultimately, though, the outcome of the match flipped in the Illini’s favor due to a strong singles performance by the entire lineup. Xu easily won her match to stay undefeated on the season in singles, and both Frazier and Schaefbauer came back from a set down to pull out impressive three-set wins. In both of their deciding sets, Frazier and Schaefbauer took care of business relatively easily, each winning 6-3 to seal the Illini’s win 4-1.

“We just did a really good job of hanging in there, kind of wearing them down and getting through it, so I was really pleased with how we responded,” Clark said. “Because it’s tough on the road, especially losing like we did on Friday night, coming back and winning on Sunday.”

The Illini are now 3-1 in Big Ten action and 11-6 overall. They’ll look to bolster their 7-1 home record when they return to the Atkins Tennis Center this Saturday to take on Northwestern.



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About the Contributors
Sahil Mittal
Sahil Mittal, Senior Sports Reporter
Matt Stepp
Matt Stepp, Visual Director
Hey there! I’m Matt, I’m currently a first-year majoring in Graphic Design, with a minor in media. I started here at the Daily Illini in the fall of 2023 as a staff photographer, and now serve as the Visual Director for the Daily Illini. I have always loved photography, you will probably see me around campus shooting sports and other events. I’m also an artist and love watercolor painting and illustration. If you’re a swimmer or enjoy the pool, you may see me at the ARC or CRCE working as a lifeguard as well, I’m never away from a pool for too long!
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