Illinois women’s tennis takes win streak to Michigan State, Michigan

Illinois’ Alexis Casati returns the ball against Northwestern at Atkins Tennis Center, on March 8. The Illini look to continue their 4-game winning streak as they head to the state of Michigan this weekend.

By Thomas Donley

This weekend, the Illinois women’s tennis team will take its four-match winning streak to the Great Lakes State to take on Michigan State and No. 17 Michigan on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

After two crushing losses to Northwestern and Purdue, the Illini have rattled off wins in each of their last four matches, beating Southern Illinois, Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State all at home. Illinois (10-6, 3-2 Big Ten) is still in search of its first conference road win this season.

“I think with the amount of practice we’ve had already on the road this season, we’ll be fine,” freshman Alexis Casati said.

Michigan State (15-4, 3-2) currently sports a two-match win streak of its own, knocking off Nebraska and Iowa last weekend. The Spartans are tied with Illinois and Purdue for fourth place in the Big Ten. With a win over Michigan State, Illinois’ win streak would be its longest of the spring.

Senior Marina Bohrer leads Michigan State with a 14-4 record in singles on the spring, while Erin Faulkner is 12-5. Bohrer and Faulkner are 11-4 as a doubles pair.

“They can be crafty,” senior Misia Kedzierski said. “They’re feisty. I know that. You can’t underestimate or overestimate anyone, so we just go out there and play our own games.”

Michigan (13-3, 5-0) is tied with No. 11 Northwestern for first place in the Big Ten and has the best overall record in the conference. The Wolverines will host the Wildcats on Saturday before playing host to Illinois. All three of Michigan’s losses this spring have come against teams ranked in the top 15.

The Wolverines have two players ranked in the top 25 in the nation. No. 9 Emina Bektas is 15-1 in singles this spring, playing exclusively in the No. 1 position for coach Ronni Bernstein. No. 21 Ronit Yurovsky is 8-1 this spring in the No. 2 spot.

Michigan has dominated the Big Ten this spring, dropping only three points in its first five matches. Illinois is 11-28 all-time against Michigan and have lost the last 11 meetings.

“They’re tough,” Kedzierski said. “It’s always a challenge. It’s a little like playing Northwestern, going out there and knowing that it’s going to be a battle.”

Illinois’ win streak has been a team effort: junior Melissa Kopinski is 4-0 in singles matches during the streak, while Casati, Kedzierski, and freshmen Jerricka Boone and Louise Kwong are all 3-1. The Illini’s doubles pairings have changed constantly over the last four matches, and head coach Michelle Dasso says that will continue this week.

The Illini have spent time this week practicing outdoors to prepare to play outside, as the weather forecast calls for 50 degree temperatures in Ann Arbor on Sunday. Tennis matches can be played outside if the temperature is above 50 degrees and the wind is less than 20 mph.

“It’s a long way to the Big Ten tournament,” Dasso said. “We just look at each weekend’s matches, and we have to be ready.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]