Women’s Tennis: Northwestern hopes to hit stride on road in tougher Big Ten

Rebecca Friedman

The 15th-ranked Wildcats look to raise their Big Ten record to 3-1 as they head to Minnesota on Friday to face off against the No. 32 Golden Gophers.

Northwestern posts an 8-7 record on the season after an impressive 5-2 win over Big Ten foe No. 45 Illinois at the beginning of March and sweeping matches against No. 46 DePaul and No. 58 Iowa.

In their dominant performance over the Hawkeyes, the Wildcats took all three doubles matches and five of six single matches in straight sets. The match was only the second time all season that the Cats won all three doubles matches. The No. 2 pairing of junior Kate Turvy and sophomore Belinda Niu won their ninth consecutive doubles match in an 8-5 effort, securing the first doubles victory of the match for the Cats.

“It was a really good match for the whole team,” Turvy said. “Even though it was a tough opponent, we worked through it and got the win as a team.”

The No. 3 pairing of juniors Brittany Wowchuk and Linda Abu Mushrefova clinched their match just seconds later, as well as the doubles point for NU.

At the No. 5 position Abu Mushrefova was the first to get on the board for the Cats in singles play. After dropping the first game of the first set, Abu Mushrefova won six consecutive games for the inspired 6-1 win. The junior carried her momentum into the second set, securing another 6-1 victory. The victory marks her team-high ninth singles victory of the year.

At the No. 3 singles spot, Niu clinched the next point for the Cats in a dominant 6-0, 6-2 effort, marking her 10th career victory in Big Ten play. Senior Stacey Lee’s impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory at No. 6 clinched the match for NU.

Sophomore Veronica Corning, Wowchuk and Turvy put the icing on the cake for the Cats, winning their matches and securing NU’s second consecutive shutout.

NU continued Big Ten play against Nebraska, handing it its only loss of the season in a 4-3 win during an ITA National Team Indoor Championship qualifying match Jan. 29. The Cornhuskers were eager to avenge their loss and slid past the Cats, 5-2, on March 25.

The two teams split the first two doubles matches, with Wowchuk and Abu Mushrefova taking the No. 3 match 8-4, while Niu and Turvy dropped their No. 2 doubles match 8-3. The No. 1 doubles pairing of sophomore Nida Hamilton and Corning were unable to hang on for the Cats, falling 8-5 to Nebraska’s 26th-ranked Madeleine Geibert and Stefanie Weinstein and losing the doubles point.

“The doubles matchup was different than last time we played them. We played a tougher opponent,” Turvy said. “We had trouble with our game a little and didn’t step up enough to beat a good team like that.”

In singles, the Cats were off to a promising start, with a 6-4, 6-2 win from Corning at the No. 4 slot. Nebraska took the No. 1 singles victory and NU followed up with a No. 6 singles victory from Lee. However, the Cats were unable to hold on, surrendering the other three matches to the Cornhuskers.

“The first time they were very close,” coach Claire Pollard said of Nebraska. “A tough schedule got the better of us.”

To bounce back against Minnesota, Turvy said NU is “working on competing better and not letting our emotions affect us.”

The Cats also practiced under pressure and performance situations to prepare them for the Golden Gophers, according to Pollard.

Turvy notes that the conference has proven to be much stronger this year than in years past.

“In previous years the Big Ten has been more just Michigan and us and everyone else competing for third. This year we have Nebraska, Illinois and Purdue all ranked in the top 35 in the country,” she said.

The match against Minnesota is the first of five consecutive away matches coming up for the Cats.

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