Women’s Tennis: Nationally top-ranked sophomore Maria Mosolova captures NCTC victory for NU in Palm Springs

Jimmy Mitchell

Entering the weekend at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic, sophomore Maria Mosolova was the No. 1 ranked player on more than just the Northwestern roster.

She was, and still is, the top-ranked singles player in the nation, thanks to her tournament victory in Palm Springs, Calif. It was Mosolova’s first event as the No. 1 player in the country.

Her victory at the NCTC came with wins over four nationally ranked players, including No. 26 Hilary Barte in Sunday’s championship. Mosolova defeated Barte, a Stanford sophomore and the 2008 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Rookie of the Year, to the line of 6-2, 6-7 (8), 7-5.

With the tournament victory, Mosolova, All-American as a freshman in 2008, improved to 16-2 in singles matches for the year.

Back in Evanston, her fellow teammates had nothing but praise.

“We all feel a lot better knowing that we have Maria Mosolova on our team,” senior Keri Robison said. “Let’s just say I’m really glad she’s not playing for anyone else. She’s one of the top competitors in the country, and she’s going to win a lot of matches, no matter who she plays for.”

The rest of the No. 1 Wildcats remained in Evanston for the first weekend of the season. NU went a combined 12-3 during Sunday’s Wildcat Invitational, a four-team event between Alabama, DePaul, Florida State and NU.

Like Mosolova, the Cats are enjoying their first ever No. 1 ranking by the International Collegiate Association. The ranking has helped to motivate NU, but the Cats have not allowed it to get to their heads, Robison said.

“It was really important for the team to show that the hard work we’ve been putting in practice has been paying off,” she said. “It feels great being number one, but we haven’t even earned it yet. Preseason rankings don’t mean very much when you get to the regular season.”

The Cats, winners of five of six doubles matches Sunday, relied on a mix of upperclassmen and newcomers to dominate the tournament. In the first session of the invitational, senior Georgia Rose and freshman Stacey Lee triumphed over Florida State 8-3, while senior Nazlie Ghazal and freshman Elena Chernyakova trounced DePaul 8-2.

Robison, who alongside Chernyakova defeated a Florida State tandem 8-4, said the team’s performance Sunday was an auspicious opening to the 2009 campaign.

“It gives us a lot of confidence in doubles. Florida State (ranked No. 20 preseason) is a real tough team,” Robison said. “They’re going to be really competitive this year, and we did pretty well against them. We feel pretty good about our progress so far.”

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