No. 33 Illini women’s tennis bounces back against Hawaii

After traveling for almost all of March, the Illini women’s tennis team ended its road trip with a pair of matches in Hawaii.

Illinois, ranked No. 33, traveled to Manoa, Hawaii, to play a pair of outdoor nonconference matches in windy conditions. The Illini lost a heartbreaker against No. 36 Washington, 4-3, on Friday but rebounded the next day with a win against the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine, 5-2.

“I think it was overall a good week,” sophomore Marisa Lambropoulos said.

“Even if we lost to Washington, it was a good learning experience, and they are definitely a good team.”

The Illini (12-4, 3-1) continued their struggles against Washington, falling to 0-7 record against the Huskies (12-5).

Illinois capitalized on wins in the middle of the lineup to keep the score close. Junior Megan Fudge, ranked No. 108, dropped her first set, 6-3, to No. 69 Denise Dy at the No. 2 singles spot.

Fudge then came storming back to take the next two sets, 6-4, 6-4, but it wasn’t enough for the Illini.

An early loss in doubles at the start of the match proved to be the pivotal point.

“Honestly, I just don’t think we played well on doubles against Washington,” Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso said. “We didn’t execute the way we were capable of. That was the difference.”

Illinois responded Saturday with a sweep of all three doubles matches against the Rainbow Wahine and remained in control throughout the match.

“I felt everyone on each court — one, two and three doubles — went out and played like they were the better team from the get go,” Dasso said.

Lambropoulos’ tight victory over Anja-Vanessa Peter was one of the four Illini singles victories against the Rainbow Wahine.

“Winning the bigger points always changes the match drastically,” said Lambropoulos, who won, 7-6 (8), 7-5, at the No. 3 spot.

Redshirt sophomore Leigh Finnegan, playing at the No. 1 singles spot, failed to record a win over the weekend.

Finnegan, ranked No. 103, dropped her match against Washington’s No. 27 Venice Chan, 6-4, 6-3, and suffered another straight-set loss against Hawaii’s Ellen Linsenboltz.

Against Hawaii’s Sophie Kobuch, Fudge couldn’t improve her impressive singles record as she dropped the first and third set, losing 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (11-9).

The loss drops Fudge’s singles record to 14-2, but she said she was feeling good because her team had already clinched the match.

“My opponent was good,” Fudge said. “But I was fighting hard … unfortunately, the super tiebreak took it out of me again.”

Fudge’s only two losses in the dual season came in matches that were decided by super tiebreakers.

Along with a split record over the weekend, Fudge added that Illinois is bringing back a “very sunburned, tanned but fit” team and stressed, “We do not want to leave.”

While a week in Hawaii captured the souls of the Illini, they know they can’t get too relaxed as they face two Big Ten rivals this weekend.

“We’re excited to get back to our Big Ten season this weekend with a chance to play at home … obviously from traveling a great part of March,” Dasso said.