Grier gets 8th seed in singles tourney

Nick Halpern

Northwestern tennis player Jessica Rush found out Sunday she’ll be playing in the NCAA tournament at 2:30 p.m. today, but she doesn’t know who will be on the other side of the net.

“I don’t want to know who I’m playing,” Rush said. “I guess I’ll find out in the morning.”

Rush will find out that she is matched up against No. 18 Jackie Carleton, whose UCLA team finished second in the NCAA team competition.

Rush and Cristelle Grier, NU’s top women’s tennis players, received their matchups Sunday for the individual tournament. Grier was given the eighth seed in the tournament despite her No. 3 rank in the ITA polls. She will play Stanford’s Lauren Barnikow, ranked No. 56 in singles.

Rush and Grier will play singles matches today in Athens, Ga., then team up to play as the fifth seed in the doubles tournament Tuesday.

“I don’t really know how the seeds work,” Rush said. “I really had no idea what to expect. I heard the team ranked above us is seventh (in the poll).”

Thier first-round doubles match will give Grier and Rush a chance at redemption — their opponents, Georgia’s Agata Cioroch and Shadisha Robinson, were one of the four teams to defeat them in dual matches this season.

“We’re hoping for bitter revenge,” Grier said. “They’re probably one of the tougher first rounds, but this is the NCAAs.”

If they advance in singles, Grier and Rush will play both singles and doubles on Tuesday.

“The vast majority of players are in a similar situation,” Pollard said. “I actually think it will help them — they enjoy the doubles matches and enjoy playing together.”

But Grier said playing two matches in the Georgia sun could adversely affect their play.

“I think it’ll be tiring,” Grier said. “We’ll be putting a lot out there emotionally.”

Grier was seeded second last season as a freshman after winning 29 straight matches going into the tournament. She made it to the quarterfinals before falling to USC’s Jewel Peterson. Rush played the tournament’s No. 1 seed last year and fell in the first round.

This year Grier is a lower seed, but said she will benefit from the experience, even if there is more pressure as a sophomore.

“Obviously it was nice to be two last year, but it’s still nice to be in the seedings this year,” Grier said. “It doesn’t affect me greatly.

“I guess on paper (the seeds are) supposed to bear some kind of reference to how you’re playing, but when you get on the court, everything on paper goes out the window.”

Grier has lost only twice this season — both times to Duke’s Amanda Johnson — including a defeat Thursday in the Sweet 16 round of the team tournament.

“Obviously that wasn’t a great way to perform, but I had a good chat with Claire (Pollard),” Grier said. “I’d didn’t have a lot on Thursday — it was just a struggle.”

In doubles, Grier and Rush are no strangers to defeating the nation’s top teams. Earlier this season, they won the ITA Indoor National Championships, defeating many of the teams the NCAA tournament doubles bracket, including their first-round opponents. In the Wildcats’ loss to Duke on Thursday, Grier and Rush defeated the third seed in the doubles tournament for the second time this season.

“We played a good doubles match against Duke,” Rush said. “Knowing that we can play well at a big event definitely gives us confidence.”