Casati cruises in Illini debut

Four members of the Illinois women’s tennis team opened their season Friday at the West Point Invitational on the United States Military Academy campus.

Freshman Alexis Casati led the way, winning her singles bracket in dominating fashion.

Competing in her first collegiate tournament, Casati defeated four opponents and didn’t drop a set along the way in the No. 1 singles bracket. She defeated Hannah Liljkevist of Seton Hall in straight sets in the final, winning 6-2, 6-2.

“I was very impressed with her,” Illini head coach Michelle Dasso said. “She played very smart on the court. I think it was a great way to start her college career.”

Casati cited her freshman status as a reason for her success, allowing her to play free of lofty expectations.

“I really had no pressure coming into this tournament,” Casati said. “I was happy with my performance.”

Sophomore Audrey O’Connor, sophomore Julia Jamieson and junior Emily Barretta also competed at West Point. O’Connor and Jamieson advanced to the quarterfinals of their respective brackets in singles, and Barretta made it to the semifinals of her bracket.

“I think that was a great showing for her,” Dasso said of Barretta’s performance. “I know she put in a lot of hard work over the summer and played as many tournaments as anyone on our team. That was a huge reason she had success this weekend.”

On the doubles side, the top-seeded duo of Casati and O’Connor dropped their first and only match of the tournament, while Barretta and Jamieson went 2-1 as a pair before losing in the semifinals. Dasso said she was “disappointed” in her team’s doubles play; however, the fall schedule provides leeway for experimentation with doubles pairs and leaves room for improvement, Dasso said.

“That’s what the fall is all about: testing out some different teams,” Dasso said. “We’ll certainly go back to the drawing board and try some different combos, most likely next time out.”

As the team returns to Champaign, Casati brings back a flawless singles record, as well as respect from at least one teammate.

“It was really impressive for her,” O’Connor said of Casati’s debut. “Coming to her first college tournament, just being able to be tough and not overwhelmed at all the competition. She just stepped up and I’m really proud of her.”

Alex can be reached at [email protected] and @aroux94.