Illinois women’s tennis to finish regular season on the road

By Thomas Donley

Following a 4-3 upset at the hands of Iowa on Saturday, the Illinois women’s tennis team had some soul-searching to do, so for two hours, they did just that. 

Head coach Michelle Dasso had each team member speak for a minimum of five minutes about how they felt about the match and what they felt they needed to do for the rest of the season.

“It was a team meeting where we talked about growth,” Dasso said. “And learning from our losses and moving forward.”

The Illini appeared to have learned from the loss to Iowa as they defeated Nebraska the next day. Illinois (11-9, 4-5 Big Ten) is currently in eighth place in the conference, five matches out of first place with matches at Minnesota and Wisconsin on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to close out the regular season, two matches the Illini must win in order to keep alive their hopes of making the NCAA tournament. 

“It would be really cool to make the tournament,” senior Allison Falkin said. “We’ve only made it one of the other three years I’ve been here, so it would be cool to make it again.” 

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    Another topic the Illini talked about was doubles and how they would approach that part of the match for the rest of the season. Illinois is 9-0 when winning the doubles point this spring, but has won only one match in which its opponent took the doubles point.

    Illinois will head to Minnesota looking for its first true road win of the spring. The Gophers (16-6, 6-3) sit in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten with Purdue and Ohio State. Minnesota has spent most of the spring on the heels of Northwestern and Michigan but has lost three of its last six matches, including a 7-0 loss to Ohio State. 

    The top of the lineup has failed to deliver lately for Golden Gophers head coach Chuck Merzbacher, as Tereza Brichacova, Natallia Pintusova and Jessika Mozia, playing in positions 1, 2 and 3, respectively, have gone a combined 4-14 over their last six matches. Minnesota has also lost the doubles point five of its last six matches, repeatedly putting itself in a hole to start off the match.

    The bottom half Minnesota’s lineup has kept it competitive this spring, as Julia Courter and Aria Lambert, playing primarily Nos. 4 and 5, hava combined record of 31-10 on the spring, while Paula Rincon Ortero and Maja Vujic have combined to go 16-6 playing mostly in the No. 6 position. 

    Wisconsin (7-10, 2-7) enters the weekend tied with Iowa for ninth place in the Big Ten. The Badgers hold the tiebreaker against the Hawkeyes with a win in their matchup on March 23, but have lost six straight matches since then. 

    Wisconsin has lost seven straight doubles points, dating back to March 21.

    Sophomores Lauren Chypyha and Anastasia Tripolskay have been solid for Wisconsin this spring, posting identical 13-4 singles records. 

    “It’s pretty important to win these two matches, especially since we’ve had some upsets in the last few matches,” junior Melissa Kopinski said. “It’d be great, especially since we’re on the bubble right now.”

    With the season winding down, the Illini have been feeling the wear and tear of a full season, but that is not an excuse Dasso is going to make for her team.

    “I would lie if I said we didn’t have some beat up players,” Dasso said. “But our season is so long, playing in the fall and spring. There are clearly some girls that are hurting, but so are most of our opponents. At this point you’ve got to put it behind you and give every ounce of everything.”

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