Illini fall to stiff competition in Boston

Head coach Michelle Dasso tried to look at the bright side of the Illinois women’s tennis team’s trip to Harvard for the Harvard Invitational.

“We enjoyed Boston,” Dasso said. “The city was nice.”

But on the tennis side of the team’s last fall tournament, it wasn’t as nice.

“I’m not going to lie, there weren’t too many positives over the weekend; although, they had some competitive matches,” Dasso said.

The challenges the Illini faced at the Harvard Invitational were expected. The top of their lineup, including junior Melissa Kopinski and senior Allison Falkin, stayed home. Instead, Dasso brought freshmen Louise Kwong and Jerricka Boone along with junior Julia Jamieson and sophomore Emily Barretta to Boston. They faced the top players from Harvard, Brown and Boston University.

“The girls were playing better opponents than they normally would,” Dasso said. “They were certainly challenged with the level of play. I feel like there was a couple of matches we certainly could have pulled out.”

The Illini struggled in both singles and doubles, going 2-10 in singles play and 2-6 in doubles. In Harvard, the Illini were up against the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation, featuring Illinois native Monica Lin. As a freshman, she entered the tournament with Harvard’s top singles record at 9-2. Lin’s doubles partner, senior Hannah Morrill, went undefeated in the tournament in both singles and doubles. Barretta and Jamieson picked up the Illini’s only singles wins, defeating junior Sarah Kandath and sophomore Ammu Mandalap of Brown.

Both Illini doubles pairs picked up one win at the tournament over tandems from Boston University. Kwong and Boone teamed up in a deviation from last weekend’s pairing of Kwong and Jamieson, a duo that went 3-0 at the Midwest Blast. Dasso said she wanted to mix up the doubles pairs one last time before the spring.

“We just wanted to give it a look there, just play with some different tandems,” Dasso said.

The Illini now head home entering the winter offseason. Practice time will be cut down, as they are only allowed eight hours of practice a week. Dasso said the Illini will look to get healthy and more conditioned to prepare for the spring season, which begins with a trip to Hawaii for a tournament that begins Jan. 16.

As they gear up for the spring, Dasso cited the valuable experience her players got against tougher competition at Harvard.

“It’s a learning experience,” Dasso said. “You have to learn from your experiences and get better and buckle down for the spring.”

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