Coming off a big win over Washington on Saturday, the Northwestern women’s tennis team could be vulnerable to an upset against unranked Marquette.
But don’t count on it.
The No. 10 Wildcats (8-3), who haven’t played a team ranked outside the top 50 in the nation since their season-opening win over Eastern Michigan, take on the Golden Eagles (3-6) this afternoon at Combe Tennis Center. Marquette is winless in eight matches against NU.
The Cats are coming off a win against the No. 4 Huskies, the first victory over a top-five opponent in coach Claire Pollard’s six-year tenure in Evanston. Pollard called the victory, “the biggest win we’ve had at Northwestern since I’ve been here.”
But this doesn’t mean the Golden Eagles will fly under the radar.
“I don’t think we’ll have a letdown,” sophomore Cristelle Grier said. “Pollard and this program have always emphasized approaching each match the same — whether it’s Marquette or it’s Florida or Stanford.”
Despite being strongly favored in the contest, the Cats expect to benefit from playing the match.
“They have a lot of international players so we’ll see a lot of different game styles tomorrow, so that’ll be good for us,” Pollard said. “It’s hopefully a chance for us to get some wins and for us to rebuild our confidence — the last couple weeks have definitely challenged our confidence.”
“Against Washington you’re going for the win,” Grier said. “Against Marquette obviously you’re hoping to get the win as well, but you’re hoping to do it in a different way — trying to incorporate something you’ve been working on outside your normal game and try to put them into the match and see how they work.”
The contest with Marquette is NU’s final match before beginning the Big Ten slate Friday against Wisconsin. Marquette already has played four Big Ten schools, losing each of the matches.
Four of Marquette’s six singles players hail from outside the United States — three from Spanish-speaking nations. Its top player, senior Veronica Garcia Briseno, is from Mexico. She is coming off a close loss to Indiana’s Dora Vastag, who is ranked No. 30 in the country.
While the Golden Eagles are a far cry from the last four teams the Cats have played, all of which were ranked in the top 11 in the nation, NU still will be excited for the match.
Asked if it would be tough to get excited about playing a team that’s not part of the nation’s elite, Grier said: “I think it’s inevitable, but we love playing and competing as a team and playing at home. It’s difficult not to get up for those types of situations.”
Pollard acknowledged that playing Marquette will be less of a thrill than playing against the top schools, but said the competition will still be important.
“I’d rather be playing tomorrow than be practicing,” the coach said. “It’s that time of year where it’s fun to compete. It’s not as exciting to compete among yourselves, so I think everyone would choose to play tomorrow rather than practice.”