Women’s Tennis: NU flawless in tourney shutouts

Dan Ryan

The 2011 season has shown the Wildcats know a thing or two about fighting through difficulties. Rebounding after a heartbreaking loss to Baylor and responding to a 6-1 waxing at the hands of Michigan by beating the Wolverines in the Big Ten Tournament finals is evidence of just that.

Saturday, Northwestern added another tough match to its resume.

Playing without freshman sensation Belinda Niu, who injured her knee against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, the Cats showed off their depth, beating Notre Dame 4-0 a day after cruising past IPFW 4-0.

“(Friday against IPFW) we just took care of business,” coach Claire Pollard said. “We got on top of them and did a good job. The bad thing about it was Belinda getting hurt; that was unfortunate.”

The weather gave the Cats the most problems on Friday, as conditions forced the teams inside after the completion of the doubles matches. NU didn’t mind, however, winning every match in straight sets and completely dominating the Mastodons.

This set up a second-round rematch with Notre Dame, whom the Cats beat earlier in the season with a spectacular rally after trailing 3-0.

NU didn’t need to rally against the Fighting Irish this time.

Northwestern won the doubles point on the back of superb play by the No. 1 line of sophomore Linda Abu Mushrefova and freshman Nida Hamilton and the No. 3 team of senior Maria Mosolova and sophomore Kate Turvy, who filled in for the injured Niu.

“You have to give a really big hand to Kate Turvy,” Pollard said. “Stepping up, played great doubles. We had to shuffle that doubles team. And I thought that No. 1 doubles team put on a clinic today.”

At singles, Mosolova once again overcame No. 5-ranked Kristy Frelling for the win at No.1 singles. A straight sets victory by Turvy, who was moved up to No. 3 singles, pushed the lead to 3-0.

“We were resilient and tough again,” Pollard said. “Maria taking care of Frilling again was just a huge boost for us. Just an overall great performance by every girl.”

Every player besides Mosolova found themselves playing one slot higher than usual. Despite this setback, the Cats were competitive on every court.

“We pride ourselves on having a great program and great players, but we pride ourselves more on having people of characters ,” Pollard said. “We work hard and talk about qualities that it takes to be a champion. You have to face adversity, and you have two choices: you can either feel sorry for yourself, or you can step up and be determined. I knew how I was going to feel, and I think my team can adopt that attitude.”

Needing one more win to clinch the meet, junior Stacey Lee found herself in the second set of a tight No. 5 match. After winning the first set, Lee faced a tiebreaker in the second set of what would be the deciding match.

“I was actually getting really nervous,” Lee said. “But I was just focusing on what I needed to do and trying not to think about anything else.”

Lee dominated the tiebreaker 7-1, sending NU into a frenzied celebration and the Irish home disappointed for the second time.

“Overall, everybody played really well,” Lee said. “We just laid everything on the line and came out on top.”

The Cats now head to Palo Alto, Calif. for the round of 16, where they will be matched up with undefeated and No. 1-ranked Stanford.

Lee said NU is not intimidated by the challenge, however.

“We’re really excited because we get to play Stanford,” Lee said. “They’re the top seed, and we’re going there with nothing to lose so we’re just going to put it all on the line.”

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