Women’s Tennis: New doubles recipe yields similar success

Dan Ryan

After Thursday’s heart-breaking loss to No. 7 Baylor, coach Claire Pollard decided to shake things up on her team’s doubles line.

So far, so good for the new-look Wildcats.

No. 15 Northwestern extended its Big Ten winning streak to eight over the weekend with victories over Indiana and No. 59 Purdue and finished its final homestand of the year at 9-1. The wins came on the heels of the decision by Pollard to unveil a new doubles lineup consisting of sophomore Linda Abu Mushrefova and junior Elena Chernyakova at No. 1 doubles and freshman Nida Hamilton and sophomore Brittany Wowchuk at the No. 3 spot.

“I thought we were a little stale,” Pollard said. “And we struggled a little bit, especially at one. I thought the change would re-energize us.”

Northwestern certainly played like a team with a spark against Indiana. At doubles, the newly formed No. 1 pair lost the first game of their match but found a rhythm, taking the next five en route to an 8-4 victory. Despite the No. 2 line of senior Maria Mosolova and freshman Belinda Niu losing for only the fourth time on the year, the Cats secured the doubles point with a hotly contested 8-6 win at No. 3 doubles.

NU wasted no time in wrapping up the meet. Junior Stacey Lee gave the Cats their first singles point with an easy 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 5 singles. Sophomore Kate Turvy followed up quickly at No. 4, finishing off a 6-1, 6-2 victory of her own. Hamilton sewed up the win for NU with a 6-3, 6-3 victory at the No. 6 line.

Mosolova put the icing on the cake for the Cats, winning her match 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) to push her record to a perfect 17-0 on the year. Wowchuk continued her strong play as well, winning her No. 3 match 6-3, 7-5.

“I thought we competed better,” Pollard said. “We’re beginning to find our form. Indiana played good doubles, I was really impressed with them.”

NU followed a similar script on Sunday against Purdue.

Abu Mushrefova and Chernyakova improved to 2-0 at the No. 1 doubles line with a sharp 8-4 victory to start off the meet. The ever-consistent No. 2 pairing of Niu and Mosolova secured the doubles point with an 8-3 win. Hamilton and Wowchuck found themselves down 7-4 in their No. 3 match but staged a rally to force a tiebreaker, eventually completing the doubles sweep with an 8-7 (7-4) victory.

“So far (the doubles change) is working out well,” Hamilton said. “Both teams won both their matches, so it’s working out.”

Indiana tied things up when Mosolova fell in straight sets, losing for the first time all season and falling to 17-1. The loss was Mosolova’s last home match of her exceptional career.

The rest of the team picked up their No. 1 player, however. Niu recorded a 6-1, 6-3 victory at No. 2 singles to retake the lead for the Cats. Playing at No. 4, Turvy finished off her own 6-1, 6-3 win shortly after. Although she blew a 5-1 second set lead, Lee held off her opponent to give the Cats the deciding point with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) victory at No. 5 singles.

“The team played pretty well,” Hamilton said. “We’ve done well considering how many matches we’ve played in the past two weeks. We really stepped up.”

With no more home matches remaining, NU finishes up its regular season with meets at No. 10 Michigan and Michigan State. The match against the Wolverines on Saturday will decide which team gets the No. 1 seed at the Big Ten Tournament.

“We took (Monday) off, we’ll train really hard and get mentally prepared because it’s going to come down to a mental match,” Wowchuk said. “We’ve had some tough matches against them in the past. We’re just going to have to play better than they do.”

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