Illini women’s tennis prepares for weekend on the road

By Thomas Donley

The Illinois women’s tennis team will hit the road this weekend for a pair of away matches at Oklahoma on Saturday and at Wichita State on Sunday. 

The road trip will be the first for Illinois since a Jan. 31 loss at Notre Dame, and the first back-to-back matches of 2014.

Illinois is coming off a win in its last match, having decisively knocked off No. 25 TCU last Sunday. Oklahoma is coming off with wins in its last two matches against Memphis and Iowa, while Wichita State is riding a two-match win streak of its own after wins over Creighton and Missouri-Kansas City.

“I think the main thing’s going to be coming out fired up in doubles,” said head coach Michelle Dasso. “Doubles is so key, I think, against these top programs. If you can sneak away with that doubles point, that early edge, I think you take that momentum with you.”

Dasso cited doubles as a deciding factor in the loss to Notre Dame. The Illini dropped two of three doubles matches in the 4-3 loss in South Bend, Ind. Illinois has spent time in practice this week preparing for Oklahoma’s doubles strategies.

Illinois beat Oklahoma last February in a match Dasso has used to prepare for Saturday’s match. The Illini are less familiar with Sunday’s opponent, though, having not faced Wichita State this year or last.

“We’ve got another tough match this week,” said senior Allison Falkin. “Both tough matches. I don’t know much about Wichita State, but I know we played Oklahoma last year. They’ll be tough.”

The level of unfamiliarity with Sunday’s opponent does not intimidate the Illini.

“I actually think a lot of people on the team like that better because we go into it with no expectations,” said senior Misia Kedzierski. “We just know that we have to go out and play our game and figure it out on our own. If we know what to expect, and something changes, we might panic a little.”

Illinois enters the weekend with a record of 4-1, its only loss coming in its lone road match. Oklahoma has an identical overall record and is 3-0 at home. 

“The biggest difference is knowing that people aren’t going to be cheering for us,” Falkin said. “We’re not going to have the support of the people that come.”

In the end, the Illini may wind up taking the simplest approach against Oklahoma and Wichita State. When asked about strategy for the weekend, Dasso’s answer was straightforward.

“Just win,” Dasso said.

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]