Illinois women’s tennis wins four straight on homestand

By Thomas Donley

With a 4-3 victory over Ohio State on Sunday, the Illini (10-6, 3-2) rose above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time this spring and saw its winning streak reach four matches. 

“It feels good,” said junior Melissa Kopinski. “Every year we always start with tough teams in the Big Ten. It’s good to get on a winning streak and to keep it up.” 

After two weeks of practice following the loss to Purdue, the Illini faced Southern Illinois at home on March 21 in their first outdoor match of the spring. Illinois snapped the Salukis’ 10-match win streak with a 6-1 win. 

Illinois won the doubles point with a pair of 8-6 wins by Kopinski and Alexis Casati at first doubles and Julia Jamieson and Audrey O’Connor at third doubles. Casati, Kopinski, Louise Kwong, Jerricka Boone and Misia Kedzierski were all victorious in singles. 

On March 23, Illinois resumed Big Ten play indoors at home against Indiana (14-5, 2-2). The Illini picked up their first Big Ten win of 2014 with a 5-2 victory. 

Casati took down Sophie Garre in helping her team secure the win. The loss was just the second for Garre on the spring. Kopinski, Kedzierski and Allison Falkin also contributed singles wins against Indiana. 

“I think it took a load off our shoulders,” Dasso said. “It was a big win for us. It gave us a little confidence when we needed it.” 

The Illini took that confidence into Saturday’s home match against Penn State, winning 6-1 indoors. Illinois swept the singles matches, but dropped the doubles point to the Nittany Lions. This was the first time all spring that Illinois won a match in which it lost the doubles point. 

Back outdoors against Ohio State on Sunday, the Illini closed out their four-match homestand with a hard-fought 4-3 victory. Along with a dominant effort from Kopinski, freshmen Boone and Kwong both battled back from early deficits to win their respective singles matches. 

Boone lost her first set 1-6, but battled back to take the next two sets. Kwong found herself in a 4-0 hole in her first set, but fought back to win in straight sets.

“It helped having a senior, especially Misia, on the court right next to me, battling and keeping it close,” Kwong said. “Just having my teammates around me helped me focus, and it helped me get back into the game.” 

After using the same doubles pairings in virtually every match this spring, Dasso has used different doubles pairings in each of the last four matches. The Illini are 3-1 in doubles over those four matches. 

“We’ve got to be proud of the fight that we put in,” Dasso said. “It was definitely a team effort this entire weekend, and we gained some confidence.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]