Illinois women’s tennis falls to Michigan and drops to No. 3

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Illinois’ Amy Allin returns a ball during doubles play against Michigan State at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex on Saturday. Allin and her partner Annie McCarthy won 8-6, and the Illini swept the Spartans 7-0 in singles play.N

By Rosalind Dumlao

Both teams entered the Atkins Tennis Center tied for second place and were fresh off wins Saturday, as the Illini swept Michigan State, and the Wolverines defeated Ohio State.

Following the recognition of lone senior Shivani Dave on Senior Day, the Illini and Wolverines began playing back-and-forth matches in doubles play.

The Illini’s Leigh Finnegan and Chelcie Abajian battled the No. 24 duo of Chisako Sugiyama and Tania Mahtani but lost 8-5 to give Michigan (15-5, 9-1 Big Ten) the early doubles point. Despite the loss, the Illini felt their doubles performance provided confidence going into singles play.

“It was very bittersweet we lost the doubles point, but yet we felt really good about it,” freshman Amy Allin said. “We felt like we were in all of the matches.”

Allin’s victory tied the match at 1-1, but Abajian’s loss to Whitney Taney gave Michigan a 2-1 lead.

The Illini couldn’t capitalize on key situations that would’ve taken pressure off on their remaining singles courts.

Sophomore Marisa Lambropoulos built a 5-3 first set lead, but Michigan’s Denise Muresan had an aggressive comeback to steal the first set in a tiebreak and ended up taking the second set to give the Wolverines a 3-1 lead.

In must-win situations on the remaining courts, Finnegan and junior Megan Fudge went to third sets, but junior Kristina Minor’s double fault in the second-set tiebreaker sealed the win for Michigan.

“It was really uncharacteristic of Kristina,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “Her serve is her strength, but unfortunately she double faulted a few times more today than she normally does. She’s just got to let that go.”

After Finnegan dropped her third-set super tiebreaker to No. 70 Sugiyama, long faces lined the Illini team as they watched No. 70 Fudge fall to No. 106 Rika Tatsuno.

“If you walk in there, you’d probably think no one’s talking,” said Fudge of the locker rooms. “Everyone is pretty upset, and that’s pretty much it.”

Revenge will be on the team’s mind as it looks forward to the Big Ten Tournament and a possible rematch with Michigan.

“Obviously we lost 6-1, but it was a heck closer than that,” Dasso said. “Anyone at the match saw that easily a few points here and there could’ve gone either way. Great news is that we’ve put ourselves in a great situation in Big Ten, and if we can take care of business that’d be another crack at the Wolverines.”