Women’s Tennis: Historic weekend win in Wisconsin

Jimmy Mitchell

Heading into the Women’s Indoor Team Championship, No. 1 Northwestern knew its top ranking would motivate the 15 other teams in contention to be the squad that dethroned the leader.

Not even a glaring bull’s eye, however, could hinder the Wildcats’ rampage in Madison, Wis., over the weekend.

NU defeated No. 6 Georgia in Monday’s final match, 4-1, for its first ever indoor tennis championship victory. In doing so, the Cats avenged their ITC performance of one year ago, in which they dropped the final contest to a powerhouse Georgia Tech team.

“I’m really happy for the players,” coach Claire Pollard said. “They’ve worked hard. It’s been a long time coming. I really think the experience we had last year helped us to be better prepared for today.”

NU’s win at the ITC also carries some historic implications. Apart from solidifying the Cats’ status as No. 1, the triumph at Madison was the first win by a team from the Big Ten conference in the 22-year history of the tournament.

An auspicious omen for NU’s postseason chances came with Monday’s win as well. Of the last 21 teams that have claimed victory at the ITC, 10 went on to win the NCAA championship that same year.

Pollard, however, was not so quick to etch out the ramifications of the tournament win.

“I think that’s still to be determined,” she said. “(The ITC win) certainly gives us some confidence and belief. The number-one ranking at the start of the year is sort of more an entitlement than anything else. Now, I feel like we’ve seen the best teams in the country, and we’ve come out victorious.”

On the way to the matchup against Georgia, the Cats stormed through the first three rounds of the tournament, earning wins over Miami (6-1), No. 8 Duke (4-3) and Notre Dame (4-1).

Georgia made its way through USC, No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 California, and was one win away from their fourth ITC win until it ran into the NU buzz saw. The two teams traded victories in the opening doubles matches until sophomore Maria Mosolova and senior Keri Robison came back from a 7-6 deficit to give the Cats the doubles point.

Wins in singles play from senior Georgia Rose and juniors Lauren Lui and Samantha Murray powered NU to Monday’s 4-1 triumph. The Cats’ lone setback came in the No. 1 singles match, where top-ranked Mosolova fell to No. 7 Chelsey Gullickson.

The loss was only the third of the year for Mosolova.

The depth of NU’s roster was critical in deciding Monday’s outcome, as it will be for the rest of the season, Pollard said.

“We got our wins from different places in every different match,” she said. “I think that’s the secret to a great and successful team. We can’t afford to rely just on the same three players to clinch matches for us. To be a great team, we’re going to need great play from everyone.

“Maria can only win one point for us. Really, the depth of our team is what is going to be the key to our success this year.”

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