Illinois returns to Atkins Tennis Center for first time since March to take on Indiana, Purdue

By Jackson Janes, Assistant Sports Editor

As Dorothy famously says in “The Wizard of Oz,” ‘There’s no place like home.’

After returning to the court last weekend in the Purdue Invitational, the Illinois women’s tennis team played at Atkins Tennis Center against outside opposition for the first time since March 8. Though team scores were not used, this weekend’s action against Indiana and Purdue allowed the Illini to prepare for next weekend’s Big Ten opener in Iowa City.

“That first week they were just getting their feet wet,” said head coach Evan Clark. “I think a lot of people felt more comfortable, and the level of tennis has gotten a lot better overall.”

Illinois welcomed Indiana on Friday to open the weekend, a team that hadn’t faced since March 8, 2019. The Illini dominated singles play, winning six of their head-to-head matches, with junior Shivani Ingle picking up her first win of the season.

Senior Sasha Belaya also picked up her first win of 2021 in doubles competition, teaming up with sophomore Josie Frazier for the first time this season after missing the team’s first competition last weekend.

Clarks says he’s using these first two weekends to figure out the best doubles teams before official matches start next Friday.

“We’ve narrowed it down for sure, and we’ve had the luxury of these first two weeks not counting,” Clark said. “I don’t know if we’re set yet, but we’re pretty close. We just gotta find the three best (doubles) teams to give us the best chance to win.”

After having the day off on Saturday, Illinois welcomed Purdue on Sunday, who was the last team they faced at Atkins before the spring season was cut short. The Illini won four of their six singles matches, with seniors Emilee Duong and Asuka Kawai and freshman Kate Duong picking up wins to cap off their undefeated weekend in singles play.

Doubles duo Ashley Yeah and Kate Duong also went undefeated across two matches, though they were the only Illini duo to pick up a win against Purdue. 

Earlier this week, the Illini got some good news: they finally received a schedule. 

“We’ve put a lot of work and effort into giving out two cents on what the schedule should look like,” Clark said. “It’s definitely an interesting schedule that’s something different than what we’ll play any other year, but we’re just happy to have a schedule.”

Though the team was not as successful against Purdue as they were against Indiana on Friday, Illinois will have the chance to avenge their performance later in the season, as they are scheduled to play Purdue twice this year. The Illini will also take on the Hoosiers this season, with the matchup slated for March 20.

Illinois will open their 2021 Big Ten campaign at Iowa on Friday before traveling to Lincoln to take on Nebraska on Sunday.

“Everything’s been different this year, so we’re just grateful that we’re having the opportunity to go play, and we’re hoping that we can get all our matches in and not have any major issues,” Clark said. “We’ll just take it one week at a time … and that starts with matches against Iowa and Nebraska next weekend.”

 

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