Men’s Tennis: Cats begin march to national title

Jimmy Mitchell

Over the last four years, Northwestern has grown from a Big Ten powerhouse to a No. 1-ranked national juggernaut.

The same four years have also marked the collegiate career of senior Georgia Rose, one of the key figures in the Wildcats’ rise to national acclaim. When Rose arrived at NU, the Cats were winners of six consecutive conference championships, but the possibility of being national champions was far out of reach.

Now, with two months remaining in the regular season, No. 1 NU (9-1) will be the favorites in the NCAA tournament in May. The Cats begin their march to a national title today with a 4 p.m. inter-conference match at Wisconsin.

For Rose, the secret to NU’s success lies in the increase in both talent and motivation up and down the Cats’ roster.

“I’m really proud of the things we’ve accomplished over the last three years,” Rose said. “I think we’ve stepped up our level. We’ve gained this depth in our lineup that just helps us in every single dual match we play. Obviously, the Big Ten championships are great, and we definitely don’t overlook them. But at the same time, we’re definitely in contention for a national title. That’s what the team has got to look at every single day. That’s got to be our focus, and (coach) Claire (Pollard) does a great job of reminding us of that.”

Pollard’s squad now boasts five players – No. 1 sophomore Maria Mosolova, No. 25 Rose, No. 43 junior Samantha Murray, No. 83 junior Lauren Lui, and No. 99 senior Nazlie Ghazal – ranked in the nation’s top 100 singles players.

Rose herself is emblematic of the depth of the Cats’ roster. After being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Rose was slotted into NU’s No. 1 singles spot as a sophomore in 2007. She finished the year with a 26-5 record going up against the best players in the country.

Following Mosolova’s arrival, Rose slipped comfortably into the second position, providing the Cats with a No. 1-type talent at the No. 2. Gaining an advantage on each court on the floor is necessary for NU to succeed, Pollard said.

“That’s what it’s going to take to be the best team in the country and for us, ultimately, to achieve the rest of our goals,” she said. “We’re going to need everyone to step up and play big roles. We have a lot of players who would be ranked one at other schools. We’ve got people who are not playing who would be playing for other schools.”

In an anomaly for a player of Rose’s quality, she has lost two consecutive matches. Over the weekend, Rose fell to Duke’s Ellah Nze (No. 24) and North Carolina’s Katrina Tsang, both in third-set tiebreakers.

Pollard, however, does not seem worried about her star’s recent slump.

“I think she’s struggling with her focus, but she’s Georgia Rose. What can I do?” Pollard said. “I’m not exactly disappointed with her. Georgia’s everything that we need her to be.”

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