Illinois women’s tennis drops matches at Michigan State and Michigan

By Thomas Donley

The Illinois women’s tennis team headed to the state of Michigan this weekend looking to extend its four-match winning streak, but returned home with a streak of a different kind after dropping matches to Michigan State and Michigan.

Illinois (10-8, 3-4 Big Ten) took on Michigan State (16-5, 4-3) on Saturday in East Lansing, where doubles proved once again to be the deciding factor. The Spartans drew first blood, taking two of three doubles matches. Freshman Jerricka Boone and junior Melissa Kopinski salvaged one set, making quick work of Michigan State’s Julianne Gruber and Emily Meyers.

In singles, the Illini kept it close as freshman Alexis Casati continued an impressive freshman season, disposing Erin Faulkner of 6-2, 6-3. Fellow freshman Louise Kwong and senior Misia Kedzierski also won in straight sets, as Kwong defeated Meyers 6-4, 6-4 and Kedzierski easily bested Athena Trouillot 6-3, 6-1.

Boone was the last Illini to finish Saturday. With the match tied 3-3, Boone took Michigan State’s Olga Chernova down to the wire but fell 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. The loss was the first for Illinois since March 9 at Purdue, and it was Michigan State’s third win in a row. The two teams entered the match in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference with Purdue.

On Sunday, the Illini headed to Ann Arbor to take on No. 17 Michigan (15-3, 7-0), who had just taken sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a win over Northwestern on Saturday.

The Wolverines took the doubles point, but Illinois made it close. Kopinski and senior Allison Falkin downed the No. 47-ranked duo of Ronit Yurovsky and Laura Ucros 8-3 on Court 2, and Casati and Boone nearly took down No. 66 Sarah Lee and Amy Zhu, but fell 8-7.

Michigan took all six singles points en route to its seventh straight victory. Casati was the only Illini to win a set, as she took No. 22 Yurovsky to a third set. Four individual Wolverines are ranked in the top 125 nationally.

“I think it was a lot closer than the score showed today,” Casati said. “I think we played pretty well, we just needed a few more points.”

Sunday marked the second time Illinois had been shut out this spring. The Illini were also blanked by Northwestern on March 8.

“Against Northwestern, we had trouble showing our spirit and getting into it,” Casati said. “But today, we almost won doubles and played pretty well in singles, so today was a lot better.”

Head coach Michelle Dasso continued to change up the doubles lineups this weekend, as she has in each of the past six matches. Only Kedzierski and Kwong played together in both matches this weekend. Illinois is 1-8 this spring when losing the doubles point.

“Difficult times and difficult losses can break teams or make them stronger,” Dasso said in a press release. “The character of our team will show on how we rebound and finish the regular season.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected] and @Donley_Thomas