Illinois women’s tennis seniors leave their mark

By Thomas Donley

In the fall of 2010, freshmen Allison Falkin and Misia Kedzierski made their debuts for the Illinois women’s tennis team. After four years of matches, practices, conditioning, road trips and team bonding, their journeys will start to come to a close Sunday when Falkin and Kedzierski take the court at Atkins Tennis Center together for the last time against Nebraska on Senior Day. 

Falkin and Kedzierski started their college careers in different fashions: Falkin won 17 singles matches and was ranked as high as No. 9 nationally in doubles with teammate Rachael White, while Kedzierski played in only 16 matches while battling injury.

The two have come a long way since their first season, maturing as tennis players as well as teammates and leaders. Falkin brings intelligence and a warrior’s mentality to the table, while Kedzierski contributes positivity and team spirit, qualities head coach Michelle Dasso values in her seniors. 

“Any time you’re in your final season, there’s a certain leadership that comes with that,” Dasso said. “I think they’ve done a very good job across the board of bringing different qualities to our team to make it stronger.”

Dasso has also seen growth from her two seniors on the court. Dasso said Falkin has become more offensive in her game, gaining the ability to not only outsmart opponents, but to overpower them as well. Kedzierski’s biggest improvement has been in doubles. Kedzierski strongly disliked doubles as a freshman, but has since become what Dasso calls a “staple” for the team in doubles and has become more willing to finish at the net.

Doubles has been an area in which Falkin and Kedzierski have had the opportunity to become leaders during their senior year, as they have spent most of the season paired with freshmen to develop the younger players. Falkin has been paired with Jerricka Boone for the majority of the doubles matches this spring, while Kedzierski has played most doubles matches with Louise Kwong.

“Coming into my senior year, my goal was to leave a legacy behind,” Kedzierski said. “And show the freshmen and the sophomores and even the juniors what it takes to be a Fighting Illini and to be part of our tennis team.”

Kedzierski said that she hopes she has taught her younger teammates to be team players, to be confident and, most importantly, to be positive. Falkin said she hopes she has set a good example for the underclassmen.

Although their eligibility will run out after this spring, Falkin and Kedzierski will carry the impact of playing tennis for Illinois for the rest of their lives.

“I can take away some awesome experiences,” Falkin said. “A lot of great memories. We’ve been on some really great trips and had some great wins. Sad times, good times. Just really great memories.”

Kedzierski said the biggest takeaway she will have is the experience of being on a team, which has taught her how to develop positive relationships with other people.

While Falkin and Kedzierski will both soon be finished playing tennis here, they both plan to come back to see their old coaches and teammates and offer support and encouragement. However, Sunday’s Senior Day is only one in a series of final matches for the two Illini seniors. They still have four regular season matches as well as the postseason to continue leaving their marks on the program.

“I don’t feel like it’s hit me yet, completely,” Kedzierski said. “I feel like the season is still going, and it’s just another match. I think once the season ends and I start packing everything up and cleaning out my locker, it’s going to finally set in.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected] and @donley_thomas.