Illini women’s tennis finish fall season with mixed results

By Cole Henke

The Illinois women’s tennis team had to look outside of the win/loss column to see signs of improvement as it concluded its fall season.

The team split up this weekend; four players traveled to the USTA Clay Court Invitational in Orlando, Florida, while the other four went to Purdue University for the Schwartz Challenge.

Seniors Melissa Kopinski and Julia Jamieson, and sophomores Louise Kwong and Alexis Casati, made the trip to Orlando for the Illini. While Kwong was the only one able to get out of the first round with a win, Casati posted a 2-1 record, the best Illini performance of the weekend.

After waking up on the first day of the tournament feeling under the weather, Casati came out and gave Tristen Duwar, the five seed from Clemson, all she could handle as Casati fell in a tight three-setter.

Casati was pleased with her match and was happy to get a shot at a ranked player.

“I just tried to do my best, because it’s hard to come across ranked players, and whenever you do, you have to try to take advantage of it,” Casati said.

Casati went on to win her final two matches in the consolation draw. Jamieson also added in a win against Korac from Stetson University on the last day.

Kopinski had a rough weekend, as she was unable to pick up a win in her three matches. While head coach Michelle Dasso thought Kopinski could have played much better, Dasso was pleased with bits and pieces of Kopinski’s game.

“In the first set of her last match, Kopinski played the smartest tennis she has played all fall,” Dasso said. “She was very patient and waited for her shots. It was great to see.”

Sophomores Madie Bailon and Jerricka Boone, along with freshmen Grace Tapak and Jade Hilton, traveled to Purdue University. The results were similar to those in Orlando.

Transfer Bailon finished the Schwartz Challenge with a 2-1 individual record, the best posted by the Illini at the event. Boone and Tapak both went 1-2 on the weekend, while Hilton was unabale to win a match, finishing 0-2.

Balion has impressed Dasso all fall with how well she has adjusted.

“She has improved a lot over the fall. Being a Champaign native and a transfer from Illinois State, I feel as if her confidence has grown a lot,” Dasso said.

Despite the losses, Dasso sees the team’s level of competition as a good sign heading into the winter break and especially the spring season and Big Ten play.

Casati’s match against Duwar was especially promising for Dasso.

“(Casati’s) first match just proved to me that she compete with anybody in the country.”

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