Women’s tennis: No. 16 Cats home for NCAA Tournament

Dan Ryan

After upsetting No. 10 Michigan and winning its 13th consecutive Big Ten Tournament just three days ago, Northwestern (20-7) found out how its postseason journey will begin after the unveiling of the NCAA Championships bracket on Tuesday.

The Wildcats are seeded No. 16 in the NCAA Championships and will host the first two rounds, starting against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (27-3) in the opening round and hosting the first round matchup of Notre Dame (15-9) and Fresno State (11-13) as well.

Coach Claire Pollard had mixed feelings about the bracket.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Pollard said. “We’re really excited to be at home and that we get the opportunity to play the second round at home. We’re a little disappointed that we were dropped the couple of spots that we were from the rankings, but we were (No.) 19 a week ago and didn’t think there was any chance to host, so overall we’re ecstatic that we get to host.”

IPFW, NU’s first-round opponent, earned its second-consecutive NCAA Championships berth this season. The Mastodons captured their second-straight Summit League Championship after compiling an 8-0 conference record.

IPFW has won each of its past 17 games, by a combined margin of 99-4.

Despite its impressive record, IPFW’s one shared opponent with NU proves that the Mastodons might struggle to keep their winning streak alive. IPFW lost to Michigan State 7-0, an opponent the Cats crushed by the same score.

Also in Evanston for the opening rounds is Notre Dame. The Cats defeated the Fighting Irish earlier in the season, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to prevent the upset.

Despite the early-season scare provided by Notre Dame, Pollard refuses to look ahead to the potential second-round pairing.

“This week, we’ve taken a couple of days of rest now,” Pollard said. “We’ll have to work really hard. Notre Dame, Fresno, IPFW – they’re all great teams. We can’t look past anyone right now, so our focus is on ourself. We need to get a couple of the players playing a little better. We have a great attitude for practice and a great work ethic.”

Regardless of their success in the Big Ten Tournament, the Cats will need a little fine-tuning as the NCAAs approach.

“Our doubles showed a good sign of improvement last weekend,” Pollard said. “That’s something we need to continue to build on. It’s very individual for each player, but I do feel like most of the girls, if they weren’t in a good place, I feel like they’re turning the corner to get in a good place. The key is we’ll need every spot in every match.”

NU begins its NCAA Championships run next Friday, May 13, at 1 p.m. at Vandy Christie Tennis Center.

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