NU ready for Trojan war

Amalie Benjamin

Sweet 16, take two.

For the second straight year, the Northwestern women’s tennis team has made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

This year the No. 7 Wildcats (24-4), who are on a 10-match winning streak, will face 10th-ranked Southern California (19-7), a team they already defeated 5-2 Feb. 17.

In that match, at the USTA/ITA Team Indoor Championships, NU took four of six singles matches and the doubles point.

The No. 2 doubles team of Shannon Duffy and Marine Piriou had a tough match, pulling out a 9-8 (5) victory over Melissa Esmero and Anita Loyola.

And No. 31 Colleen Cheng knocked off No. 28 Jewel Peterson 6-4, 6-4 at No. 1 singles.

When the Cats step on the court Thursday for the rematch, they will use a slightly different lineup than the one that trounced the Trojans in mid-February.

The Cats’ rearranged lineup means that the prior victory indicates little. Even so, this year NU will be taking on a team ranked lower than itself, a welcome reprieve from last season.

Last year NU’s tournament ended in the Sweet 16, when undefeated and top-ranked Stanford handed the Cats a 5-1 loss.

The Cats’ single point came from Colleen Cheng’s victory at No. 3 singles over then-No. 38 Teryn Ashley 6-4, 6-2.

The Cardinal made it all the way to the championship match before losing to No. 2 Georgia that year.

The Cats earned a berth in this year’s third round by defeating Kentucky 4-1 Sunday and Illinois-Chicago 4-0 Saturday in their first NCAA home matches in team history.

Meanwhile, Southern California was the one top-16 team that did not host its regional matches. The Trojans traveled to Old Dominion (Va.), where they defeated Maryland-Baltimore County 4-0 in the first round and South Alabama 4-1 in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16.

If the Cats can get past the Trojans, they will face either Baylor or second-seeded Georgia in the Elite Eight. NU dominated The Golden Bears 6-1 earlier this season and is 2-1 all time versus the Bulldogs.