Illinois women’s tennis seeing double

By Thomas Donley

For the Illinois women’s tennis team this spring, the formula for success has been pretty straightforward: Win the doubles point, win the match; lose the doubles point, lose the match.

While the situation may not be quite that simple, the importance of doubles cannot be understated. The Illini are 5-0 on the spring when they win the doubles point and 0-4 when they lose it.

“It’s difficult to beat good teams, particularly in the top 25, by winning four singles points,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “It eases the coaches’ tension when you get that first point.”

Heading into Sunday’s match against Southern Illinois, Dasso is considering changing up the team’s doubles pairings and breaking up the three pairs that have played together all spring. Melissa Kopinski and Alexis Casati are 6-3 together this spring, while Misia Kedzierski and Louise Kwong are 5-3, and Allison Falkin and Jerricka Boone are 2-4.

“It doesn’t hurt to try something new out,” Kedzierski said. “I like the teams we have now. I think if we did change it, we would have one dominant team and the other two might not be as dominant. 

The teams will change regardless for this weekend’s match, at least a little, because Kopinski will sit to rest her bicep tendonitis. However, she will be ready for the Big Ten season.

Dasso considers many different factors when deciding which two players to pair together for doubles, such as which players prefer backhand or forehand, and which players are more selective about who they play with.

“I think with the chemistry, across the board the team has grown,” Dasso said. “I think they’ll adjust if they do have to play with different partners, but if we do struggle in doubles to start the Big Ten season, we’ll experiment with different partners.”

Another change for the Illinois doubles teams this week involves the format in which they will play, moving from a six-game set to a pro-style eight-game set. Dasso said the team was excited for the longer doubles set because of how quickly a six game set can go by. 

Illinois has used doubles to build the future of the program by easing its freshmen into the college game. Each regular pair this spring has consisted of a freshman and an upperclassman to mentor her, as Kedzierski does with Kwong.

“It’s nice that I’m a senior and she’s a freshman, and that’s how all our teams are,” Kedzierski said. “The freshmen can really see what to do in a match, and it helps across the board in the long run.”

Two of Illinois’ five doubles wins have been sweeps, over Saint Louis and Texas Christian, and two of its four losses have been sweeps, at the hands of Oklahoma and Alabama. The Illini did not play doubles in their win over Oklahoma State because of a change in format.

“The doubles point is very important,” Boone said. “Very important. Coach has put a lot of emphasis on that.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected].