Holy Cat! Exorcism in opener

David Kalan

When they walked into Combe Tennis Center before the match, the Blue Demons were as close to victory as they would be all night.

NU opened its 2005 season menacingly Wednesday with a 7-0 thumping of DePaul. The Blue Demons came to Evanston having lost their opener to Michigan on Jan. 15 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The No. 5 Cats (1-0) were too much for DePaul (0-2) as NU didn’t drop a single set. In both doubles and singles, NU dispatched the Blue Demons with ease.

“We all played solid tennis,” said Audra Cohen, the nation’s No. 1 singles player. “DePaul is pretty feisty. They play every point hard.”

But hard was not hard enough as the Cats’ No. 1 doubles tandem of Cohen, a freshman, and junior Cristelle Grier led the way in the early part of the match. Cohen and Grier, the nation’s top doubles team, faced somewhat of a challenge from DePaul’s lead duo of freshman Beatrix Csordas and senior Marina Parashkevova.

Csordas and Parashkevova kept the match close early, but they eventually were worn down and overpowered before dropping the set 8-3.

In the other two doubles matches NU’s senior Kristi Roemer and junior Feriel Esseghir defeated freshman Bojana Murisic and freshman Anja Mihaldinec 8-2. Sophomore Alexis Prousis and graduate student Valerie Vladea traded games with Gergana Ganeva and Brenda Leung before pulling away 8-4, sweeping doubles for the Cats.

In singles No. 4 Grier, playing at the No. 2 spot for NU, faced trouble in the first set from Csordas, before dominating the second for a 6-4, 6-0 victory.

“The first set was a little testy, but the second set was good and I managed to keep my focus,” Grier said. “I was getting used to her game. I was just getting into the swing of things.”

At the No. 1 spot, Cohen’s road was not so easy. Cohen faced DePaul’s top player in Parashkevova. After taking the first set and storming out to a 5-1 lead in the second, Parashkevova reeled off two straight games before finally succumbing 6-2, 6-3. Cohen considered her difficulty at the end of the match to be a “focus issue.”

“Sometimes I play a couple of stupid points here or there,” Cohen said. “I try things I wouldn’t normally do.”

While the Blue Demons fielded a young team, with three freshman and one sophomore seeing action, they managed to test NU early on. The Cats were confronted with DePaul’s toughness before they shut the door.

No. 49 Prousis, playing No. 3 for the Cats, knocked off Ganeva, but this was no easy feat. Prousis jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first set only to see Ganeva quickly even the score at 4 games. The Blue Demons’ sophomore actually led the next game before Prousis regrouped to win the game and eventually the set. Her 6-4, 6-2 victory clinched the match for the Cats.

In the Wildcat Duals last weekend, the Cats showed their depth by losing only two singles matches and sweeping doubles.

Against DePaul, the Cats once again showed that they are a complete team.

The bottom half of NU’s singles lineup was just as dominant as its top half. In the No. 4 position Vladea handled DePaul’s Leung 6-1, 6-3.

Senior Andrea Yung, playing No. 6 for the Cats, did not play in the doubles round but defeated Mihaldinec with a solid 6-3, 6-1 win.

More than half an hour later freshman Alexis Conill closed out her match with a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Murisic, sealing NU’s 7-0 sweep of DePaul.

Coach Claire Pollard took the win as a positive step for the Cats.

“I’m always impressed with DePaul,” Pollard said. “They suit up well against us.”

Reach David Kalan at [email protected].