Illinois women’s tennis ends weekend on a high note

By Cole Henke

The Illinois women’s tennis team didn’t win the match against No. 20 Notre Dame on Saturday, but two wins on Sunday against Marquette and Chicago State made the loss sting less.

The Illini dropped their match with the Irish 5-2, but according to head coach Michelle Dasso, the match was a lot closer than the score depicted.

“We had them on the ropes,” Dasso said. “If we had won the doubles point, then it would have been a completely different match. Having five of the six singles matches was tough, too. I was proud of the way we competed.”

After losing the doubles point, the Illini played every singles match tight, and after wins from sophomore Alexis Casati and senior Melissa Kopinski at one and two singles, respectively, the match score was tied at 2-2. The Illini couldn’t win the two matches to clinch the win, losing the last three in three sets.

It was the 35th match in program history against Notre Dame, and the Illini’s record against the Irish is now 8-27.

The Illini were disappointed in the loss Saturday, but there was no time to sulk, as they came back Sunday morning to play Marquette.

The Golden Eagles came into the weekend with a 9-0 record before dropping a match to Indiana on Saturday.

“We had a slow start with doubles,” Dasso said. “I don’t know what happened, or why we were slow, but thankfully we picked it up.”

The Illini won the doubles point and then quickly picked up four singles points to clinch the win against the Golden Eagles.

After the big win against Marquette, the Illini dispatched Chicago State quickly on Sunday evening 6-1.

Senior Melissa Kopinski had her best weekend of the season, winning all three of her singles matches and two of her three doubles matches.

“I was put in charge of certain parts of my game during practice, and the coaches helped me with other parts, and it all came together this weekend,” Kopinski said.

Kopinski, who was a late scratch against San Jose State, made a strong return for the singles lineup for Illinois.

Her biggest win of the weekend came in a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, win against Notre Dame’s No. 3 singles player Julie Vrabel.

“Melissa played great, and not only in singles, but in doubles, too,” Dasso said.

“She is an extremely tough player, and she is our team captain for a reason.”

The two wins Sunday masked the disappointing loss Saturday, and it gives Illinois some momentum going into the Big Ten season.

The players credited Dasso’s motivational techniques for the bounce-back wins on Sunday.

“I told them if we come out and win these two matches, then we can have a weekend off,” Dasso said.

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