Women’s Tennis: Wildcats find doubles stroke in Great Lakes State sweep

Ava Wallace

This weekend, the Wildcats won big. The prize is a hard-earned two-week stay in their own beds here in Evanston, the longest stretch of time Northwestern has spent at home all season.

No. 14 NU (13-7, 6-1 Big Ten) defeated No. 15 Michigan (13-6, 6-1) 4-3 Sunday in what was expected to be one of its toughest conference matches this season. The Cats also came away with the doubles point, the eighth time they went on to win the match after winning the doubles point in nine chances.

“It was a really great match, neither team really deserved to lose,” coach Claire Pollard said. “As a coach, it’s what you hope to be a part of. You hope to be a part of really great matches. It was just our turn to pull one out.”

NU first traveled to play Michigan State (8-9, 0-6) on Saturday, a match that NU took 7-0 without dropping a set.

Though the doubles lineup has been subject to much alteration on a match-by-match basis, Pollard said she thought of this weekend’s pairings while on a run one morning.

For the weekend matches Pollard reunited the previously successful doubles pairing of junior Kate Turvy and sophomore Belinda Niu for the first time since March 30. Sophomore Nida Hamilton and junior Brittany Wowchuk played together, as well as junior Linda Abu Mushrefova and sophomore Veronica Corning.

“We’ve been searching for the whole season for a lineup that would be best for us,” Turvy said. “A couple of things are finally clicking and we’re playing really smart tennis.”

Turvy and Niu’s 8-0 shutout against the Spartans was the pair’s 10th win this spring, and after winning at the No. 3 spot against Michigan, Turvy and Niu boast an 11-2 record for the season.

In fact, throughout the entire weekend only No. 76 Corning and Mushrefova lost as a pair, in a close match to their No. 7 opponents at Michigan in the No. 1 spot. 8-6.

Pollard said she is pleased to have finally found some form of consistency in the doubles play.

“I’m so proud of the girls,” she said. “A lot of teams with less character would have given up on the doubles point for the rest of the season by now, but we’ve just been trying to lighten the mood and at the same time not give up. I’ve been telling them every day that they’re too good to give up the point.”

NU also dominated in singles play this weekend. No. 21 Turvy bageled her opponent on Saturday and took down her second top-10 player this season when she defeated Michigan’s No. 10 Emina Bektas on Sunday 6-3, 6-4.

The Cats’ other ranked singles player, No. 62 Wowchuk, clinched both the doubles point at the No. 2 spot and the entire match at Michigan with a 7-6, 6-4 win in the No. 3 singles spot.

Wowchuk said she felt a lot of pressure to win her match because of the rivalry but prioritized setting the match’s tempo from the get-go.

“I just focused on playing the game that I wanted to play,” she said. “I tried to make a lot of balls at the beginning to work out my nerves and eventually just come up with the right game plan to beat her.”

After the successful weekend Pollard said the team will focus on recovery this week.

“It was a tricky stretch, so you know we’re a little beat up and a little tired, but at the same time you sort of find another gear at this time of the season, everyone’s running on adrenaline,” Pollard said. “We’ll take two days rest and continue to work on our doubles, but I really think our best tennis is ahead of us.”

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