Women’s tennis: Michigan dashes NU’s title hopes

Dan Ryan

No. 17 Northwestern entered last weekend needing a win over No. 10 Michigan to secure the Big Ten championship and avenge last season’s 4-3 regular season defeat.

The Wolverines had other ideas.

NU was tripped up by Michigan 6-1 on Saturday before salvaging the weekend with a 7-0 sweep of Michigan State on Sunday.

“Michigan was obviously a tough match and the conditions were really tough, it was really windy,” sophomore Linda Abu Mushrefova said. “We had a hard time adjusting so we didn’t play as well as we would have liked to.”

This is the second season in a row in which the Wolverines have bested the Wildcats in the regular season. Last year, NU dropped a hard-fought 4-3 decision to Michigan at home before beating them 4-0 in the Big Ten Tournament final. The losses mark the only two conference losses for the Cats since April 2004.

Leading up to the meet, coach Claire Pollard stressed the importance of staying mentally sharp against tough opponents but admitted that was not a problem against Michigan.

“I don’t think (being weak mentally) was really the case,” Pollard said. “It really came down to the conditions, same for both teams. I just thought they played better in the wind than we did, and I don’t think that’s mental, I think it’s more physical. I was hoping it would come down to a mental match, but I don’t think it did in the end.”

The weather played a large factor in many of the matches, and Abu Mushrefova said the Cats simply were not used to the conditions.

“It’s a totally different match and we were outside,” Abu Mushrefova said. “It was really windy, and I guess we haven’t been put in that situation yet this year. A lot of the courts were really close, and the overall team score doesn’t reflect that. But I think we could learn a lot from this and make it much tougher next time.”

NU bounced back well in their final match of the regular season. On their way to winning every match, the Cats earned four straight-sets victories, including two 6-0 sweeps. Senior Maria Mosolova had one of those sweeps, snapping a two-match losing streak on an otherwise perfect season.

“I thought we did a good job of coming back after a disappointing loss, playing well and winning all of our matches,” Abu Mushrefova said.

With the Big Ten Tournament kicking off this upcoming Friday, the Cats will need to once again find a way to beat the Wolverines in postseason play if they want to add another title banner to their impressive display in Combe Tennis Center.

Even though a victory is by no means guaranteed, Pollard said things will be different the next time the two teams meet.

“I think I’m going to go to the magic shop and pull a few rabbits out of my hat,” Pollard said.

[email protected]