Women’s Tennis: Northwestern takes first step to reclaiming ITA National Indoor title

Chris Johnson

If rankings are any indication, Northwestern faces an easy matchup this weekend when they welcome Dartmouth to Combe Tennis Center for the qualifying round of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Team Championship.

The Wildcats are coming off a convincing 5-2 victory over then-No. 15 Vanderbilt, while the Big Green lost its first dual match of the season to No. 45 Boston College. But Nida Hamilton said NU will not approach this match any differently than their season opener.

“The key for us this weekend is going to be playing just as hard as we did last weekend,” the sophomore said. “We’re not going to assume that we’re going to win just because we have a higher ranking. We need to make sure that we come out ready.”

Hamilton and junior Linda Abu Mushrefova topped the Commodores’ Jackie Wu and Alex Leatu in their No. 1 doubles bout. It was the pair’s first match together in the new year, but coach Claire Pollard said she already feels confident they have regained their All-American form from last season.

“They’re a very good doubles team,” Pollard said. “When they’re working well together, they play great. It’s just a great feeling to know that we’ve got a great chance against anyone at number one.”

Another major contributor in the Cats’ victory Saturday was Kate Turvy. The 26th-ranked junior was dominant in her first singles bout, defeating Vanderbilt’s 23rd-ranked Wu 6-2, 6-4. She was equally impressive in doubles play, where she teamed with sophomore Belinda Niu to defeat Vanderbilt’s Nelly Radeva and Lauren Mira, 8-6.

Turvy was named the Big Ten Women’s Tennis Player of the Week on Tuesday for her efforts. She’s the first Wildcat to win the spring season awardsince Maria Mosolova on April 12, 2011. While Turvy was successful last weekend, Pollard said she can make some adjustments to improve her game.

“Kate definitely needs to be more aggressive on her returns,” Pollard said. “I think she needs to increase her first serve percentage and (move) the ball around more. There are things she can do better, but she’s doing a great job as our number one.”

The Cats are not fully healthy, as freshman Anna Livadaru and sophomore Natalie Edell are still out with nagging injuries.

“Anna and Natalie are still hurt, so we’re not at 100 percent,” Pollard said. “But there’s no doubt that we’re turning the corner. We’re going to be at full strength soon.”

If NU beats the Big Green in the opening round Saturday, they will move on to face the winner of Saturday’s Nebraska-Arkansas match Sunday. NU is one of 15 universities hosting the ITA Kick-Off weekend events. 60 teams nationwide are competing to qualify for the tournament, with the championships to be held at the University of Virginia in February. NU won the event in 2009 and 2010 before falling in the quarterfinals last season.

“The difference between this weekend and last weekend is that if you don’t win, you don’t advance,” Pollard said. “There’s definitely a little extra incentive this weekend.”

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