Senior rushes to victory

Nick Halpern

Senior rushes to victory

Jessica Rush knocks off No. 18; Grier also wins

By Nick Halpern

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern tennis player Jessica Rush was matched up against the top seed in the NCAA singles tournament last year and got knocked out after two sets.

In her senior season, Rush made sure she would stick around longer.

Rush and sophomore teammate Cristelle Grier both won their first-round singles matches Monday in Athens, Ga.

Rush pulled an upset in her straight-set victory against UCLA’s Jackie Carleton, 6-4, 6-3. Carleton is one of the 16 seeded players in the tournament, and boasts a win over Grier.

“She was seeded for a reason,” NU coach Claire Pollard said. “She is a terrific player, but so is Rushie. It’s great to see her knock down a seed.”

Grier defeated Stanford’s Lauren Barnikow, 6-3, 6-3, shortly after her doubles partner’s win. Grier, the eighth seed, bounced back from only her second loss in 2004.

“I thought she played really well,” Pollard said. “She looked really good — I was very happy.”

Grier will play North Carolina’s Aliela Mojzis, ranked No. 21 in the ITA poll, this morning. Grier already has played Mojzis this season, defeating her, 6-3, 6-2, on Feb 22.

“It’s obviously nice to know you’ve played someone before,” Grier said. “You go in knowing weaknesses and strengths and can come up with a game plan. We played a couple months ago, and it was indoors, but I’m hoping the outcome will be pretty similar.”

Rush didn’t know her singles opponent until lunchtime Monday and again will enter her match without knowing who she is squaring off against.

“I wanted to focus on preparing myself and not think too much about the opponent,” Rush said.

Despite learning her opponent only a few hours before the match started, Rush was able to find a strategy to defeat Carleton.

“I had a set game plan that I stuck with, and she got frustrated,” Rush said.

Rush took down the top player in her pod with her defeat of Carleton. One season after being bounced in the first round, she is one victory from an appearance in the Sweet 16.

Fellow senior No. 36 Barbara Zahnova of Brigham Young awaits Rush for the right to continue their singles careers.

Grier and Rush’s matches had late starts on Monday because of long matches earlier in the day. They will play their singles matches at 9 a.m. today.

“I think waiting around hours and hours is really taxing,” Grier said. “You don’t want to wait around outside in the sun, but you don’t want to be inside all day because of the air conditioning.”