Women’s Tennis: Early momentum fails Northwestern in loss to Georgia Tech

Chris Johnson and Chris Johnson

When Northwestern won the doubles point against Georgia Tech on Friday night – a feat that snapped a six-match streak in which the Wildcats had failed to do so – all signs pointed to it avenging a loss in Atlanta last year. The Cats’ hopes looked even better when sophomore Veronica Corning won to put NU up, 2-0. The early momentum, however, didn’t translate to later success, as the Yellow Jackets would dominate from then on, winning five straight matches en route to a 5-2 victory.

“They’re a good group of girls,” coach Claire Pollard said. “We got out too quickly in a few of our matches, and mentally, we just got upset way too easily. We need to find a way to remedy that.”

Junior Kate Turvy and sophomore Belinda Niu got the Cats off to a good start, beating the Yellow Jackets’ Viet Ha Ngo and Muriel Wacker 8-4 in the No. 3 doubles slot. After Corning and junior Brittany Wowchuk fell 8-5 at No. 2, it was up to NU’s sixth-ranked, No. 1 doubles pairing of sophomore Nida Hamilton and junior Linda Abu Mushrefova to win the Cats a rare doubles point.

Playing together for the first time since a Feb. 3 match at North Carolina, Hamilton and Abu Mushrefova found themselves down 4-3 against Georgia Tech’s ninth-ranked pairing of Jillian O’Neill and Alex Anghelescu. Hamilton and Abu Mushrefova would rally back to win, 8-6.

“It was nice playing with each other again, because we have a good feel for each other and we’re confident together,” Abu Mushrefova said. “We were never worried when we went down. We knew that if we stayed positive, we would be fine.”

In singles, Corning won her match at No. 4 over the Yellow Jackets’ Lynn Blau to give NU a commanding 2-0 lead. The Boston College transfer moved to 3-6 on the year with the win. She said she now knows the reason for her past struggles.

“I think that I just have a different mindset now going into my matches,” Corning said. “I was putting way too much pressure on myself. I had to get used to coming to a new school with new people. But I think I finally have it down now.”

The Cats appeared to be in good shape, with 11th-ranked Turvy taking her first set 6-1 against 47th-ranked O’Neill at No. 1 and 45th-ranked Wowchuk up 6-4 over 91st-ranked Elizabeth Kilborn at No. 2. But both O’Neill and Kilborn fought back in their second sets, winning 6-3 and 7-5 respectively. The two Georgia Tech players then cruised to third-set victories,.

“Brittany and Kate both gave good efforts,” Pollard said. “Those girls are good players. We got frustrated and they play well when they’re ahead.”

Abu Mushrefova was no match for Georgia Tech’s Jasmine Minor at No. 5 singles, losing in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. Hamilton also could build on her doubles success and fell to Anghelescu 6-3, 6-3.

“We got the doubles point for the first time in a long time,” Corning said. “So maybe we were a little more relaxed going into singles.”

The Cats face a daunting task this weekend, as they travel to take on 15th-ranked Texas and fifth-ranked Baylor. The road trip represents NU’s last matches before it begins its conference slate.

“Georgia Tech was tough, but we’ve played good teams all year so that’s not an excuse,” Abu Mushrefova said. “This weekend is going to be even tougher.”

[email protected]