Illini women’s tennis splits weekend against two top-25 teams

Illinois Alexis Casati returns the ball during the Illini’s competition against Texas Christian University at Atkins Tennis Center, on Sunday. The Illini won 5-1.

The Illinois women’s tennis team lost its undefeated record to No. 23 Notre Dame this weekend but stole a win at home against No. 25 Texas Christian, putting them at 1-1 against top-25 teams this weekend. They were buoyed by a resurgent performance from an experienced player.

Senior Allison Falkin dropped her national ranking after a poor fall season and was pulled from the lineup midway through last weekend due to an illness. Falkin and her doubles partner Jerricka Boone dropped their only doubles match on the weekend.

This weekend was a little different.

On Friday, Falkin and Boone knocked off Notre Dame’s Jennifer Kellner and Monica Robinson, the No. 26 doubles pair in the country, but the Illini fell 4-3 to the Fighting Irish in South Bend. Falkin and Boone continued their success on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over TCU’s Monika Sirilova and Stefanie Tan.

“It was definitely a good confidence builder,” Falkin said. “I know that we’re traveling next week, so I’m happy to get this win and move on with some positive momentum

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “It would have been really nice to beat Notre Dame, but I’m happy with where we are.”

    On Sunday, Falkin added a win at the second singles spot to help the Illini knock off the Horned Frogs 6-1. Melissa Kopinski lost to Mimi Fotopoulos in a tiebreaker at first singles for Illinois’ only loss of the day. After trading sets, the pair played a tiebreaker set that Fotopoulos won 12-10. The penultimate point of the match was a hotly disputed call that went TCU’s way, drawing a chorus of boos from the Atkins Tennis Center crowd.

    Head coach Michelle Dasso was proud of the experience her squad picked up against both teams, and despite the loss at Notre Dame, she expressed her pleasure with her team’s work this weekend.

    “Obviously we would have liked to have gone 2-0 this weekend, but it was a heck of a battle out there on Friday,” Dasso said. “It was a gutsy performance today. Obviously it helps when you get an extra point; they had a default at sixth singles. The rest of the matches we had to stay focused, and I credit the girls for the passion they played with.”

    In total, the Illini went 8-4 and 4-2 in singles and doubles, respectively. This puts the Illini’s season totals at 26-4 in singles and 11-4 in doubles.

    The Illini freshmen continued to impress; Boone, Alexis Casati and Louise Kwong combined to go 4-1 in singles on the weekend.

    The Illini face No. 28 Oklahoma next Saturday and will battle Wichita State on Sunday. Both matches are away.

    “Sometimes, the travel, it wears on you a bit,” Dasso said. “This coming weekend is going to be big for us … it’s going to be a quick week and we’ve just got to stay focused and stay healthy.”

    Peter can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells22.