At last year’s Indoor Team Championship, No. 4 Northwestern was the first team ever from the Big Ten to reach the final round.
This year’s Wildcats, now the No. 1 team in the nation, have a different goal.
“We want to win it,” coach Claire Pollard said.
In order to do so, NU will need to make its way through a four-day, four-round, 16-team tournament. The Cats will travel to Madison, Wis., for the first round Friday and are scheduled to take on unseeded Miami (Fla.) at 9 a.m. If victorious, they will take on the winner of the No. 8 Duke-Wisconsin match in round two.
NU’s No. 1 seeding at the ITC is a first in the history of the program. However, nothing is guaranteed to the Cats, as the competition at the tournament will be intense, Pollard said.
“I will tell you, it’s the 16 best teams I’ve ever seen,” she said. “It used to be that there was regional representation, and there was always a couple of the weaker schools in. I’m not looking to our first round. Everyone’s really good, but so are we, so I’m sure no one wants to play us either.”
The 2008 ITA Indoor Championship saw NU lose 4-2 to a Georgia Tech team that the Cats had overpowered 6-1 the previous week. The ITA loss was NU’s lone defeat of the 2008 regular season.
The memory of the loss still stings, but this weekend gives the Cats an opportunity for redemption, sophomore Maria Mosolova said.
“We got to the finals last year, so we definitely expect to at least get there this year and hopefully win the championship this time,” she said.
With a 3-0 record in dual matches in 2009, NU has lived up to its top Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranking. Mosolova herself is the top-ranked singles player in the nation and is also undefeated this season.
However, both Mosolova and the team know their ranking at the beginning of the season matters little compared to the ranking at the end.
“I actually don’t really think about (being number one),” Mosolova said. “Everybody keeps reminding me, ‘Oh, you’re the number one player in the nation!’ Well, it’s just the beginning of the year. I still have to work a lot. I think the main thing that matters is how we do at the NCAAs and how we do at the championship. That’s what I’m trying to concentrate on.”
When asked, Pollard confessed to being unaware of her team’s top position in the standings.
“That’s how far it is from my mind,” she said. “It’s February. Who really cares who’s one right now? What’s going to matter is who’s one in June when May is over. It would be nice to stay (number one), but I think if you get caught up in that, you might be getting worse. And I think it’s more important that we get better.”