Women’s Tennis: Wildcats face stern test in North Carolina, Duke

Chris Johnson

For the first time in their young 2012 spring campaign, the Wildcats found themselves down 1-0 Saturday after two of their three doubles teams dropped matches against Nebraska. Even more surprising was the fact that NU’s star sixth-ranked doubles pair, junior Linda Abu Mushrefova and sophomore Nida Hamilton, suffered their first defeat since falling in the semifinals of the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in November.

The Cats would go on to edge out the Cornhuskers, 4-3, and clinch a spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships. Give credit to Hamilton, who won her No. 6 singles match with NU and Nebraska tied at 3 to secure the win for the Cats.

“We all knew we had to rebound after losing the doubles point, so we all tried to get a fast start in our singles matches,” the sophomore said. “I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to put her away earlier, but I’m just happy that I was able to get the win.”

The 12th-ranked Cats were able to outduel the 39th-ranked Cornhuskers, but a tougher challenge lies ahead. NU embarks on a tough two-match road trip this weekend when they take on the eighth-ranked North Carolina on Saturday and third-ranked Duke on Sunday.

Coach Claire Pollard said her team’s struggles against Nebraska will need to be corrected for the upcoming matches.

“I hope it serves as a lesson that there are a lot of great teams out there,” Pollard said. “We were grateful to survive, but it definitely was a rude awakening for us. We just need to put our heads down and work. Ultimately we need to learn from that match and get better from it.”

In order to be successful against the two members of the Tobacco Road Rivalry, the Cats can’t afford to drop the doubles point again. The burden will fall on Hamilton and Abu Mushrefova to rebound from Saturday’s loss and play well against North Carolina’s 48th-ranked pair of Haley Hemm and Lauren McHale as well as Duke’s 46th-ranked pair of Annie Mulholland and Hanna Mar.

“We had a slow start, and after that it was hard to get back into it,” Hamilton said. “They were a tough team and we weren’t playing our best, but I think we learned a lot from it. The most important things for us will be staying positive and communicating. If we do that, we know that we can do well against them.”

Pollard said she might change up the rest of her doubles lineup for this weekend.

In singles competition, 26th-ranked junior Kate Turvy, who won her match against Nebraska’s Mary Weatherholt on Saturday, faces two formidable opponents this weekend in the No. 1 singles position. Both the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels boast singles players ranked in the top 20. While she acknowledged it will be important for her to succeed, Turvy said a full team effort will be needed this weekend.

“The good thing about these team rules is that every point is worth the same,” Turvy said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re (playing No. 1 singles) or (No. 6 singles), every point is just as important. We just need to keep doing the things we’ve been working on. We all know that we can do well against them, so we just need to stay positive.”

The Cats still have more than a month before they commence their Big Ten schedule at Illinois in March and begin their quest for a 14th consecutive conference title. But this weekend’s tough matchups will go a long way towards preparing them for conference-level competition.

“We feel really good,” Hamilton said. “And we’re all pretty healthy at this point. So we’re definitely excited for the weekend.”

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