Sports briefs 2/6/2012

h2. Illini women’s golf wins 4th straight Illinois Challenge

The Illinois women’s golf team started its spring season with its fourth straight victory in the Illinois Challenge, defeating Illinois State in Boca Raton, Fla. The Illini narrowly edged the Redbirds by a score of 6.5-5.5. Illinois took the advantage in the morning four-ball portion of the event, winning two and halving another of the four matches, taking a 2.5-1.5 advantage.

The two squads split the afternoon individual match-play portion of the contest, with each team winning four matches. Seniors Hailey Koschmann, Nora Lucas and Samantha Sloan led the Illini, not only procuring individual match-play victories, but winning in their four-ball matches as well.

h2. Swimming and diving improves times before Big Tens

In its last meet before next week’s Big Ten Championships, the Illinois swimming and diving team competed in the Minnesota Challenge, posting several personal bests in the meet, which held no team scores. Seventeen Illini athletes put on their best performances yet in preparation for the Big Tens, though Illinois failed to earn any first-place finishes. Illinois had seven top-five finishes as a team.

“I thought as a team, they raced hard and tough,” Illini head coach Sue Novitsky said in a press release. “We had some younger swimmers taking steps in the right direction. It was also good to have a couple of our seniors finish strong.”

One of the Illini’s best performances of the day was in the 400-yard freestyle relay, where seniors Caitlin Conroy and Michelle Mehnert — along with sophomore Anna Goering and freshman Sabrinne Gibson — took second with a time of 3 minutes, 37.4 seconds.

The Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, Iowa, are the next step for Illinois. The team will compete for the conference crown Feb. 15-18.

h2. Women’s tennis dominates SMU

Illinois women’s tennis picked up its third-straight home win Friday against SMU in dominating fashion, topping the Mustangs 6-1. The Illini swept doubles competition to win the doubles point before rattling off five straight victories in singles. They dropped the final singles match of the day when the meet was already out of reach for SMU.

“We didn’t get nervous and didn’t look back,” Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso said in a press release. “We just took care of business. With every match, we’re going to learn and gain more confidence moving forward, especially when we’re getting it done pretty decisively out there like we have at home so far.”

Illinois has played stellar at the Atkins Tennis Center this season, as the final match against the Mustangs was the first point an opponent has scored in an Illini home match.

The Illini will have a significant break before hitting the road for their next meet, which will be Feb. 19 against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

_Compiled from Daily Illini staff reports_