Cats hoping to find some Southern hospitality (women’s tennis)

Nick Halpern

The Tar Heel State hasn’t impressed the Northwestern women’s tennis team with its Southern hospitality.

Historically, Duke and North Carolina have manhandled the No. 7 Wildcats, winning 9 of the 12 meetings between the teams. And both teams handed NU defeats last season.

The Cats (7-1) look to change that this weekend as they travel to North Carolina to play the No. 10 Blue Devils (4-1) on Saturday and the No. 9 Tar Heels (7-1) on Sunday.

Duke boasts five singles players ranked in the top 100, headed by No. 5 senior Amanda Johnson, who also is part of the No. 5 doubles team with freshman Tory Zawacki.

“(Duke) has always been a really strong team and we always get up for them,” NU junior Andrea Yung said. “They have a lot of really high-ranked players but we just want to go out there and play our best.”

Duke has won 33 of its last 34 home matches, with its most recent loss coming against then-No. 3 Florida almost two years ago.

But NU coach Claire Pollard says going on the road isn’t a disadvantage for her team.

“I think it’s easier to be on the road,” Pollard said. “There’s less distraction — you can get more sleep and not worry about someone else studying late.

“The result will be the same whether we were here or there, but I don’t know what that result will be.”

It doesn’t get much easier when the Cats travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on another top-10 team. North Carolina took part in the ITA Team Tennis championships two weeks ago, going 2-1 after UCLA upset the Tar Heels in the first round for their only loss of the season.

“They’re a young team so we really have no idea how they are,” Yung said. “We get up for them, too, because we’ve lost there the last couple of years.”

The Tar Heels are coming off wins over No. 12 Kentucky and No. 23 Tennessee.

North Carolina has been getting strong play from No. 34 junior Aniela Mojizs. Last weekend, she went unbeaten, including an upset over the nation’s No. 23 player.

The Cats have been successful against ranked opponents this season, winning six of seven meetings. Unlike many sports, however, the key to success isn’t knowing your opponent.

“I can’t even remember half the time who they’re playing,” Pollard said. “I don’t think I’ve even mentioned these two teams. I don’t need to talk about it any more. It will be about who’s the better team.

“We’ll have to be our best this weekend. But I’m feeling confident.”