Women’s Tennis: No. 1 Stanford test for NU

Dan Ryan

After reaching the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in 12 years, Northwestern (22-7, 9-1 Big Ten) will travel to Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday to take on undefeated No. 1 Stanford (25-0, 8-0 Pac 10).

The Wildcats enter the meet on a six-game winning streak after dispatching Notre Dame in a tightly contested second round match, sending the Fighting Irish home disappointed for the second time this year.

Stanford, however, is on an impressive streak of its own.

As the only undefeated team in Division I, the Cardinal is on 44-game winning streak dating back to last season. The defending national champions have been dominant, giving up more than one team point in a match only 12 times during that span.

Despite Stanford’s impressive résumé, coach Claire Pollard said she is looking forward to the matchup.

“It’s exciting, it’s fun to play there,” Pollard said. “They’ll have a good crowd. We’ll play a night match, it’ll be a good atmosphere. I looked it up. They haven’t lost since ’99 at home, so that’s kind of fun.”

As it did against Notre Dame, NU may have to rely on its depth on Friday. Freshman Belinda Niu’s status is uncertain after getting injured against IPFW.

Regardless of the lineup, freshman Nida Hamilton said the game plan is still the same.

“They’re a really good team, really deep, but so are we,” Hamilton said. “It’s definitely going to be a good match. We’ll just have to play well. We’re going to have to stay mentally tough the whole time, and every match has to be close.”

Doubles play will be key in deciding the outcome of the meet, and it is not an area the Cats can afford to lose. The Cardinal is 63-3 on the year at the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots, anchored by freshman Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs.

Pollard, however, believes the Wildcats have a few important advantages.

“At doubles we can play with them,” Pollard said. “We know most of their players. When you got Maria (Mosolova) at one, she’s good enough to beat anyone, so that’s a great point for us. We just need to play unbelievable at every spot, a good doubles point and solid throughout the singles lineup.”

One small benefit of traveling to Stanford was important for Pollard.

“We’re just sick of being in the cold,” Pollard said. “We need to get out of here and get to some decent weather. It’s hard to keep practicing and dealing with conditions that are so cool.”

Should NU upset Stanford, it will face either No. 8 Georgia or No. 9 California on Saturday.

Sophomore Brittany Wowchuk, however, said the team’s focus is only on the Cardinal.

“Obviously they’re a tough team, top seed,” Wowchuk said. “But we have nothing to lose so we can just go out and go for the win and hope for the best.”

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