Illini face Redbirds, hope to end slump

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By Laura Hettiger

It has been 10 days since the Fighting Illini women’s tennis team last played in a dual match. Even with the long time lapse, the burn from being closely defeated by the Washington Huskies has not yet cooled.

In a 3-4 decision, the Illini fell to the Huskies after nearly five hours of competitive play. The defeat added to a four-game losing streak the team has recently fallen into. The women hope to end the slump tonight, as in-state foe Illinois State comes to Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana.

“I think losing such a tight match to Washington last weekend has inspired all the girls even more,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “I am confident the next time we are put in a similar situation, we will pull through.”

Illinois, currently 2-6, hopes to have a positive showing against the non-conference opponent before its jumps into the heart of Big Ten play. The match will be one of the few in which the Illini’s opponent is not nationally ranked. This season, Illinois has faced one of the country’s toughest schedules, including five opponents slated in the top 50, with three of those rivals being listed in the top 25.

Illinois State is also just coming off a close, disappointing loss as well, falling to DePaul on Sunday. The Blue Demons rallied to beat the Redbirds in a 4-3 decision. With a record of 4-3, DePaul was the first opponent to beat Illinois State at home this season.

Since Illinois’ loss to the Huskies, practice has been spent working on elements of the game the players themselves have power over.

“The girls have done a great job in practice working on the things they can control, such as body language and self-talk,” Dasso said. “These little differences can take us a long way, and I feel confident the girls can incorporate what we’ve worked on in practice into our match against the Redbirds on Wednesday.”

The two Illinois schools have a lot of experience playing each other. Tonight’s game marks the 32nd meeting between the teams. Illinois holds a 23-8 record in the two schools’ competitive history with the most recent victory coming last season when Illinois was victorious in a 6-1 decision against Illinois State.

The match will end an eight-game home stand for Illinois. The team will enjoy another long break from playing before it travels to Texas for games during spring break.