Illini to close out fall season at Harvard

After a successful home weekend at the Midwest Blast tournament in Urbana, the Illinois women’s tennis team is looking to finish the fall season strong.

The Illini will travel to Cambridge, Mass., to compete in the Harvard Invitational for their last tournament of the fall season. Brown and Boston University will also compete at the four-team invite, which begins Nov. 8.

Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso is sending freshmen Louise Kwong and Jerricka Boone, along with sophomore Emily Baretta and junior Julia Jamieson to compete at Harvard. The four Illini are coming off a solid weekend at the Midwest Blast in Urbana, posting a combined 13-6 overall record. Jamieson and Kwong went 3-0 in doubles play in their first tournament competing as a pair. Kwong currently holds the Illinois’ best doubles record on the season at 6-1. Kwong said she will look to build on her doubles success as well as other aspects of her game as the fall season transitions to spring.

“I definitely want to improve on fitness, and doubles and singles as well,” Kwong said.

The Harvard tournament will be a change of pace for the Illini. The team hasn’t traveled since mid-October, having had two weeks off and a home tournament in that time. Illinois is also the only Midwest team competing at Harvard. The Illini will compete without All-Big Ten honoree Allison Falkin and All-American Melissa Kopinski, as they have already fulfilled the team’s limit of participating in three fall tournaments. Freshman Alexis Casati is also done for the fall, and Audrey O’Connor and Misia Kedzierski are sitting out due to injury.

Dasso said she is eager for her players to get a look at some new competition before the spring.

“We have four people traveling — four healthy individuals traveling — and I think it’s a good opportunity to play different teams that we don’t typically see,” Dasso said.

One of those teams is Harvard, who boasts the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation, according to Freshman Monica Lin has led the Crimson in singles with a 9-2 record. The squad’s other three freshman round out the highly touted class, having compiled an overall singles mark of 24-10.

Harvard’s freshmen should challenge Illini freshmen Boone and Kwong, by whom Dasso has been impressed so far. Jamieson will be the oldest Illini traveling to Harvard, but she doesn’t expect her freshmen teammates to need much guidance once they get on the court.

“I think it’ll be fun to be the oldest, but I think they’ve done a good job adjusting to how we do things,” Jamieson said.

The Illini are looking to close out the fall season strong at Harvard. The Illini played their best overall tournament of the season last weekend at the Midwest Blast against Purdue, Missouri and Wake Forest. Building momentum from last weekend’s success at home is key to the team’s success going forward, according to Dasso.

“Now we want to keep it rolling,” Dasso said. “We talk about consistency and what we need to bring day in and day out to be one of the top teams in the conference and the country.”

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