NU’s Quest For First Team Title Begins (Women’s Tennis)

Brian Regan

By Brian ReganThe Daily Northwestern

Throughout her career at Northwestern, Alexis Prousis has never failed to impress. The Wildcats’ lone senior has an NCAA doubles title, four Big Ten team championships and All-America honors.

But what she wants more than anything is not for herself, but for her team: an NCAA team title.

“This season has been so amazing,” Prousis said. “We’ve been playing well and hopefully we should be able to do some great things.”

The Cats continue their quest for the NCAA title today in the third round of the NCAA tournament in Athens, Ga. They face UCLA, a team they beat 5-2 earlier in the season.

At this point in the year, Prousis said she can count on previous success to motivate both her and the team.

“Winning the NCAA doubles was the coolest thing ever,” Prousis said, referring to the title she won last season with partner Cristelle Grier. “I never imagined that would ever happen to me.”

Like the rest of the team, sophomore Georgia Rose said she wants to add to Prousis’ trophy case, both in doubles and as a team.

“She definitely has helped me in a lot of different ways,” Rose said. “Playing doubles with her has been a great experience, and I’d like to help her win another title.”

Despite being one of two upperclassmen on the team, Prousis’ leadership and example have been more than sufficient for a precocious core of singles players.

“She’s definitely very determined and very competitive,” Rose said. “She gets into game mode and you know she is going to fight for every match no matter what, and that’s something I really respect.”

On a team full of phenoms, Prousis has been able to still come up big in matches.

Last weekend she won the clinching point Friday and was the first to clinch a singles win Saturday, motivating the Cats to a 4-1 win over No. 24 Indiana.

But even by beating the Hoosiers twice this season, they are still not Prousis’ favorite team to play. That honor falls to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

“I’ve never liked them,” she said. “Whenever we beat them it was always satisfying and I always look forward to playing them.”

That won’t happen again unless both teams make the finals of the NCAA Tournament.

But before Prousis, Rose or the rest of the team can worry about the finals, they have to face the 12th-seeded UCLA Bruins (18-7), winners of five straight matches and the Pac-10 doubles title.

When it comes to streaks though, NU has the Bruins’ number. Sophomore Nazlie Ghazal hasn’t lost in 14 matches and the Cats haven’t lost since Ghazal’s streak started.

NU isn’t the only team on a tear. No. 3 Georgia Tech hasn’t lost in 17 tries and No. 1 Stanford hasn’t lost in the NCAA Tournament since 2003, but Pollard said she thinks this is the most wide-open field in years.

“There will be no difference in the degree of difficulty between (today) and the final,” Pollard said. “In past years people have been playing for second place, but there is no definite clear favorite this year.”

With that parity, the Cats (23-4) could have the chance to go deeper than any team in Pollard’s nine-year tenure at NU.

“I think we have to just go out and hopefully be able to stay loose and play four really good matches,” Prousis said. “If we do that, I think the results will talk for themselves.”

Reach Brian Regan at [email protected]