Illinois women’s tennis prepares for Southern Illinois, Indiana

By Thomas Donley

The Illinois women’s tennis team will return to the court for the first time in two weeks when they take on Southern Illinois at home this weekend in their final nonconference match of the regular season. The Illini will then host Indiana on Sunday. 

Illinois (6-6, 0-2 Big Ten) has had two weeks to practice after a rough start Big Ten play. After suffering a sweep at home at the hands of No. 8 Northwestern, the Illini traveled to Purdue and fell 5-2. 

“We’ve had a pretty productive two weeks,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “We’ve worked them hard conditioning-wise.” 

Illinois will be looking for its first home win in 47 days Friday. After the loss to Northwestern and a series of weather cancellations, the Illini are winless at Atkins Tennis Center since Feb. 2, when they knocked off then-No. 25 TCU. 

Snow has played a significant role in the scheduling of Friday’s match against Southern Illinois, which was originally scheduled as a makeup match on March 2 to replace Illinois’ snowed-out match with Wake Forest; however, the March 2 match was also snowed out, leading to it being played after the start of conference play and making it a tune-up match of sorts for the Illini.

“I’m not sure what it counts for,” freshman Louise Kwong said. “But I like that we have an extra match.”

Southern Illinois (10-3, 0-0 Missouri Valley) will put its 10-match winning streak on the line Friday. Illinois will be the Salukis’ first major-conference opponent since their first match, a 7-0 loss to Arkansas on Feb. 1.

Southern Illinois looks to junior Natasha Tomishima for leadership, who is 10-2 in singles this spring in the first position. 

The Illini will then look for their first Big Ten win when they host Indiana on Sunday. The Hoosiers (12-4, 1-1) will go on the road after 11 straight home matches when it plays Kansas in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday before facing Illinois on Sunday. Last Friday, the Hoosiers defeated Purdue, who handed Illinois its last loss. Indiana is led by French-born senior Sophie Garre, who is 12-1 on the spring in singles and is currently ranked 109th overall.

Dasso was disappointed in her team’s leadership after the way Illinois started its Big Ten season. The Illini have spent the last two weeks of practice working on conditioning and on conveying positive energy in practice. They are also focusing on not taking matches against schools like Southern Illinois for granted.

“I don’t think that’s going to be as much of an issue,” senior Misia Kedzierski said. “We’ve definitely gone into matches feeling that way, and it came out pretty negative, so we learned our lesson from those and we don’t want to have that feeling again.” 

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]