Illinois women’s tennis returns to Atkins for three-game homestand

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  • Illinois' Julia Jamieson attempts to return the ball during the match against Indiana at Atkins Tennis Center, on Sunday, March, 1. The Illini won 6-1.

The Illinois women’s tennis team is desperate for a win. So much so that head coach Michelle Dasso is making changes in practice in hopes of resolving the issues surrounding the team.

The Illini return to the Atkins Tennis Center for a three-game homestand beginning on Thursday against No. 33 Long Beach State.

Dasso said the team is doing individual workouts as opposed to team practices. This change is being made in hopes of honing in on what each individual player needs to improve, which Dasso hopes will bring a win.

Illinois is currently in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Senior Melissa Kopinski emphasized that to win, the team’s focus needs to be on securing the momentum when going from doubles to singles.

The Illini won the doubles point in three of their five losses, but ultimately failed to capitalize on the momentum gained from starting off strong.

“Our focus is getting that first set in singles,” Kopinski said. “Getting that first set and gaining momentum on all six courts is key.”

A win against Long Beach State won’t come easy. The 49ers won the Big West Conference Tournament last season — beating UC Irvine 4-2 — and boasted a 21-3 overall record. The 49ers are off to a hot start this season — their record stands at 11-3.

Kopinski said the Illini are at a large advantage because Long Beach State is transitioning from outside play to inside play — as long as the match is played indoors, as the Illini are anticipating.

To prepare for the match against Long Beach State, in addition to the individual practice changes, Dasso is also having her team practice indoors.

“We’re hungry for a win,” Dasso said. “We have better results playing at home and the travel has been tough on us mentally, so we are thrilled to be back at Atkins (Tennis Center).”

While Dasso has been focusing her efforts on changing up the practice routines, Kopinski and fellow senior Julia Jamieson have been sharing advice with the underclassmen to keep their spirits high.

“Melissa and I have told the girls not to dwell on a tough week like this,” Jamieson said. “We have chances to turn this season around and that should be their main focus.”

Competition should cool down a bit for the Illini after their match against Long Beach State. The team will take on Maryland on Saturday.

The Terrapins are currently 9-9 and are coming off of a 9-13 season. Maryland — like Illinois — is also sporting a losing streak, which sits at four games.

This is the third matchup between the two schools, with the series split 1-1: Illinois won the last matchup in 2000.

On Sunday the Illini will face Rutgers, an opponent who is also winless in conference play at 0-7. Despite turning in a 16-5 season last year, the Scarlet Knights are 6-10 this time around.

“We have the ability to win our next seven (matches) in a row,” Dasso said. “I truly believe that.”

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