Illini women’s tennis’ future looks bright

By Tim Griffin

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While the Illini women’s tennis team remains one game under .500 so far this spring season, the makeup of youth on its roster gives them potential to be competitive for years to come.

The Illini entered this spring with one senior, four juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. The juniors make up the core of the roster with captain Alexis Casati and top singles player Louise Kwong. But the three talented freshmen (Ines Vias, Daniela Pedraza Novak and Jaclyn Switkes) have been just as impressive this year.

“The freshmen have been fantastic,” head coach Evan Clark said. “I couldn’t have asked any more from them so far in this season, and they have had such a positive impact on the entire team. They all have contributed consistently in our lineup, and that’s not an easy thing to do as a freshmen. I could not be more proud of the way they have handled themselves.”

Vias leads the freshmen pack, playing with Kwong as the top doubles pair for the Illini. Vias and Kwong are ranked No. 35 in the country, have a 14-6 record and an impressive win over Texas Tech’s nationally-ranked duo Lynn Kiro and Alex Valenstein. Vias also plays singles for the Illini typically at the three or four slot.

Pedraza Novak and Switkes also have contributed consistently. Pedraza Novak is used in the lineup frequently by Clark, normally playing at the six spot in singles and with Casati in doubles. Switkes has seen some action playing at the six spot in singles, too.

While rankings are important in college tennis, Clark makes sure his freshman aren’t concerned with them.

“We know the rankings are there, but we never spend any time talking about our ranking,” Clark said. “We certainly know we are much better than our current ranking, but our results show otherwise. We know if we take care of ourselves these next several matches, our ranking will improve, and we will be in much better position to make the NCAA tournament.”

The Illini have been on hiatus and haven’t played in two weeks, but that hasn’t stopped them from training hard and preparing for their next matchup. They take on the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, on March 23.

“It is a very long break between competitions,” Clark said. “It gives us a great opportunity to build back our base fitness without worrying about being fresh for competitions.”

@TimGriffy6

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