Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Conference Champs Again (Women’s Tennis)

By Brian ReganThe Daily Northwestern

Northwestern doesn’t just dominate its conference; it has established hegemony over the Big Ten.

The last time a team other than the Wildcats (21-4) won a Big Ten championship was in the spring of 1998, and at Sunday’s final, the No. 5 Cats kept it that way to score a place in the history books.

With the help of senior Alexis Prousis, NU won its record-tying ninth-straight Big Ten crown by defeating third-seeded Michigan 4-0 in the final in Minneapolis.

“We came into the season with basically a whole new team,” NU coach Claire Pollard said. “It’s great for them to win their first title and get that under their belt and knowing what playing in big moments is all about.”

NU’s weekend began against Penn State (10-13) on Friday, after receiving a first-round bye as the top seed.

Sophomore Georgia Rose returned to the lineup at No. 1 singles for the first time since April 13 and showed some rust.

Rose and Prousis, returning to their No. 1 spot, had their match abandoned at 7-7 when the Cats clinched the doubles point and Rose did not compete in singles competition.

In singles, the Cats won straight-set matches to advance.

Suzie Matzenauer continued to prevent opponents from getting on the board, winning 6-0, 6-0. Lauren Lui and Nazlie Ghazal both extended their winning streaks and Ghazal stayed undefeated in conference play.

The atmosphere the next day against Iowa (12-10) was a little less relaxed, but it also saw the return of Rose to the singles lineup. NU struggled in doubles early, but managed to avoid getting into big holes, especially when Rose and Prousis fought to keep the Hawkeyes from winning a key break point. The Cats prevailed, with Rose and Prousis winning 8-4 and the No. 3 team of Alexis Conill and Samantha Murray capturing their seventh straight match, 8-2.

Matzenauer had a five-set scoreless streak broken by Kelcie Klockenga, but still won 6-0, 6-1, while Ghazal won her 11th-straight match with a victory at No. 5 singles.

“Suzie was unbelievable and one of our best performers,” Pollard said. “The bottom of the lineup has really stepped up in a big way down the stretch.”

Rose struggled early in her return to the No. 1 singles spot. With most of the team heading to their second set, Rose found herself in a first set tiebreaker, which she took 7-3. After winning the crucial first set, Rose cruised to a 5-0 lead and an eventual 6-1 win, clinching the match for the Cats and sending them to the finals.

“We were so dominant in both singles and doubles,” Rose said, “that it took the pressure off me.”

Wolverines were on the menu next for the Cats. But for NU, playing for the conference trophy was business as usual.

Prousis was able to show the Wolverines (16-7) why she was half of last year’s NCAA doubles championship team, especially with her net play.

Once the doubles point was out of the way, the rest of the match fell the Cats’ way.

Ghazal proved untouchable when she destroyed Allie Shafner 6-0, 6-0, for her 12th straight win and Lui was first off the courts for the second time in the tournament after her 6-1, 6-3 victory.

In the end, the title defense came down to the person with the most Big Ten experience: Prousis. The senior played cool under pressure and wound up clinching her fourth conference title in her last Big Ten match.

“I think once I get in tournament mode I forget about how much I’ve been struggling,” Prousis said. “I get into an automatic mode and I can’t think about anything but playing and it helped today.”

Reach Brian Regan at [email protected].

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Conference Champs Again (Women’s Tennis)