Illinois women’s tennis to face ISU and UIC Sunday

By Cole Henke

The Illinois women’s tennis team begins its spring dual match season with a doubleheader against two in-state teams on Sunday.

UIC and Illinois State will make the trip to Champaign to face the Illini.

The Illini look to use these two duals to get some momentum for the rest of the season. That being said, team captain Melissa Kopinski and the Illini have no intentions of overlooking their opponents.

“We never underestimate any opponent,” Kopinski said. “Since it’s a doubleheader, we will be playing a lot of matches, so we need to make sure that we are ready for that.”

Head coach Michelle Dasso believes playing at Atkins Tennis Center will help them keep their focus.

“Its nice that we don’t start the season on back-to-back road trips,” Dasso said. “I think the girls are a lot more relaxed knowing that they do not have to get on a plane again for this weekend.”

Illinois State is a familiar foe. Illinois has opened its season against the Redbirds the past three years. The Illini have only dropped one individual match to the Redbirds in those three years. Illinois State is looking to improve on its 10-10 record from last season, though it returns only two players from a year ago.

Last year was supposed to be the first time UIC played the Illini, but the match was cancelled due to a blizzard. The Flames finished with an 8-13 record last season but are picked to finish third in the Horizon League this season.

This doubleheader will be a good test for the Illini to see how well they take care of the teams they are supposed to beat. Dual-match season begins the road to the NCAA tournament, which is the team’s long-term goal for this season. Not having any slip ups against lower quality opponents is necessary to keep their tournament hopes alive.

Dasso keeps the same philosophy heading into every match, and looks to have her players implement it as well for this season.

“We talk a lot about have faceless opponents,” Dasso said. “It doesn’t matter who you play, whether it be a smaller school or a school like Duke, you have to treat every match the same.”

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