Women’s Tennis: Wowchuk, Wildcats outlast Notre Dame

Rebecca Friedman

Brittany Wowchuk knew the match came down to her.

Northwestern had rallied in singles play to tie the score at three when the junior began her third and decisive set against Notre Dame’s Jennifer Kellner. It was the first day she could recall an entire match resting on her shoulders.

“I knew at the start of the third set that it was 3-3,” Wowchuk said. “I knew the third set was a big one. I stayed pretty strong and focused on everything that I could control.”

The No. 14 Wildcats dropped all three doubles matches to the 18th-ranked Fighting Irish handily, but won four of six in singles play to keep their winning streak alive.

“I liked the combinations, but we didn’t play great,” coach Claire Pollard said. “(Notre Dame is) excellent in doubles.”

The doubles point has been something that the Cats have struggled with all season.

“We keep trying different things,” Wowchuk said. “We’re still hoping we’ll be able to find combinations that work.”

Pollard said the team is used to heading into singles play down 1 point and knows how to bounce back. However, NU suffered another blow at No. 4 singles, falling down 2-0 after Notre Dame’s Britney Sanders defeated sophomore Veronica Corning, 6-1, 6-0.

“Veronica ran into someone playing really well,” Pollard said, noting that Sanders was Notre Dame’s “hot spot.”

Junior Kate Turvy provided the Cats a much-needed boost, with an efficient 6-3, 6-2 victory at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Belinda Niu was unable to follow suit, falling 6-1, 6-4 at No. 2 singles, handing the Fighting Irish their third and final victory on the day.

Sophomore Nida Hamilton spurred NU with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 6 singles and from there the Cats never looked back. Junior Linda Abu Mushrefova, coming off an injury that forced her to miss the past two matches, triumphed 6-0, 6-4 to tie the match at three. The pressure was now all on Wowchuk, who fell 6-2 in the first set, but bounced back with a 6-1 victory in the second. With a decisive 6-1 win in the third set, Wowchuk clinched her match and the victory for the Cats.

Wowchuk said she had a lot of chances in the first set and that it could have gone either way.

“I changed my game plan a little, and it worked,” she said.

Overall, the match served as an impressive comeback victory for NU against a top 20 team.

“The key was to be tough at every spot,” Pollard said. “We did a great job competing.”

The match was the final non-conference matchup for the Cats this season. Of their 11 non-conference matches, 10 were against teams in the top 50. The win raises the Cats’ all-time record against the Fighting Irish to 27-11.

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