End of an era: Women’s tennis seniors face last home match

The Illinois women’s tennis team finishes its regular season this weekend with conference matches against Purdue and Indiana. The Illini will face Indiana at home on Friday and travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on the Boilermakers on Sunday. This will be the final home match for seniors Amy Allin, Chelcie Abajian and Marisa Lambropoulos.

No. 23 Illinois (15-6, 7-2 Big Ten) is coming off of back-to-back wins against Penn State and Ohio State last weekend and has won its last three competitions. The Illini are 7-1 at Atkins Tennis Center this season; their lone loss came on March 10 to conference leader Northwestern.

“This year has been great,” Allison Falkin said. “Last year we had kind of a rough year because of all the injuries, but this year has been so much better.”

Friday’s match marks the end of an era for the seniors, and they’ve had a noticeable impact on the program. Lambropoulos is moving up the all-time record books in Illinois history and is entering some elite company. She has accrued 82 singles wins in her career, tying her for eighth all time with Sue Hutchinson and Gayathri DeSilva. On the doubles side, she has 84 victories, good for third all-time. Lambropoulos is just three doubles wins shy of tying with Kathy Neil for second place.

“We need to bring that same energy and focus (as the Penn State match),” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “Obviously Friday is a special day for us, with it being Senior Day for our three seniors.”

“I definitely look up to our seniors,” Falkin said. “They all do a great job, and I feel like I can still learn a lot from them.”

As for the opponents, Indiana (15-8, 4-5) has lost four of its last five matches since starting 3-1 in the Big Ten season.The Hoosiers have one ranked player in Leslie Hureau, who is No. 99. As a team, Indiana is ranked 57th. The Hoosiers’ roster is loaded with younger players; they only have two juniors and seniors combined on a team that has five freshmen.

The Illini have had their struggles with Indiana over the years, only winning eight matches out of 41 all time against the Hoosiers, although they did beat the Hoosiers last season, 4-3.

No. 29 Purdue (14-4, 6-3) is having one of its best seasons in program history. Its ranking is the second-highest ever for the Boilermakers. Purdue will have its own senior day for its three seniors — Anna Dushkina, Kay Kay Magi and Jennifer Rabot. In last year’s meeting, the Illini took a 4-3 win over Purdue in the regular season and then beat the Boilers again in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament 4-1.

Illinois seems to be peaking at the right time, having won nine of its last 10 matches.

“With more confidence, comes more wins,” Dasso said.