Kopinski and Casati struggle at All-American pre-qualifier

The two players representing the Illini women’s tennis team had a rough time over the weekend at the ITA All-American pre-qualifier in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Senior Melissa Kopinski and sophomore Alexis Casati were unable to advance past the pre-qualifier stage in singles or doubles.

Casati, in her first trip to the pre-qualifier, lost to Kelsey Dieters of Kentucky 4-6, 3-6 in the first round of the tournament. Kopinski won her first round 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 against Elena Kordolaimi of Houston, but then lost in the second round 2-6, 4-6 to Mariana Gould of Georgia.

Despite playing only one match, Casati said the tournament was a learning experience. She now has a better understanding for how tough her competition will be this season. Casati gave her opponent credit, saying nothing was really off in her own game, but Dieters was a good player and got the best of her.

Kopinski, an All-American her sophomore year in doubles, did not meet her own standards.

“Well, obviously I am disappointed. Being my senior year, I really had high expectations for myself.” Kopinski said.

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    Kopinski was happy, though, with her consistency. Kopinski and head coach Michelle Dasso spent a lot of time this summer working on patience and staying solid from the baseline until Kopinski had the opportune set up shot to take control of the point. Kopinski mentioned that she felt she showed improvement in that regard this weekend.

    The two also teamed up to play doubles at the event. The tandem fell in the first round to the third-seeded pairing of Kenna Kilgo and Lynn Kiro of Texas Tech. Kopinski and Casati played a tough match, losing 6-8, and showed signs of being a team to be reckoned with once the spring season comes around.

    “Overall, I think we played really well together. We had a lot of energy,” Casati said. “We have a lot to learn playing good teams in close matches.”

    Dasso did not travel with the two to the pre-qualifier. She went to the Notre Dame Invitational with the rest of the team. Instead, former player and Atkins Tennis Center assistant pro Christine Stromberg accompanied Casati and Kopinski to California.

    Both players said it was great having Stromberg along. They praised her knowledge of the game and said she helped both of them when they were on the court.

    Both players now look forward to the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional at the Atkins Tennis Center from Oct. 17-21.

    Cole can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @cole_Henke.