Senior key to women’s tennis success

By Amber Greviskes

Emily Wang is a completely different tennis player than when she began her Illinois career in 2003. Delivering stronger strokes to complement her nail-sharp mental toughness, Wang has emerged as a leader on and off the court.

A left knee injury hampered Wang’s play in the fall, but the lone senior’s return to the practice courts has inspired her team, first-year head coach Michelle Dasso said.

“Right now, it is just great to see Emily back on the court and practicing,” Dasso said. “She is a tremendous leader on and off the court.”

Wang’s experience will be crucial Saturday when the Illini travel to Marquette.

Last season, Wang played primarily at the No. 3-5 singles spots and established herself as a top doubles player. Her most impressive doubles victory came when she and Macall Harkins defeated Notre Dame’s Christian and Catrina Thompson, who won the coveted Riviera/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Women’s All-American Championships.

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The Golden Eagles, led by Lauren Little, Erin Watkins and Kylie Moore, are Illinois’ first targets in high-pressure, dual-match play.

Despite playing throughout the fall, this is the first time the team’s results count toward their final record. Last semester the athletes focused on improving while earning individual recognition.

For freshmen Kristina Minor and Megan Fudge, the collegiate format will be unlike anything they have experienced before. Each singles victory gives the winner’s team an edge, but to earn the doubles point a team must take two-of-three matches.

“The college format is going to be much better,” Fudge said. “There is going to be a much better team atmosphere.”

Dasso, a four-time All-American at Notre Dame where she began her coaching career as an Irish assistant in 2003, is elated about beginning her first spring season as a head coach.

“As a player and as a coach, this is why I love college tennis,” Dasso said. “The spring is so much fun. It makes tennis, which is inherently an individual sport, a team sport. This is why I love playing and coaching.”

Wang wants to make her last season her best. She is excited about the changing program and is careful to leave a positive, lasting impression on her young teammates.

“I just want to have fun this season,” Wang said. “It’s a really different team than I came into my freshman year (the senior-loaded 2003-2004). It has been really fun to see all the changes.”