Women’s Tennis: Northwestern looks to continue Big Ten Tournament winning streak

Ava Wallace

Coach Claire Pollard has a reputation to uphold at the Big Ten Tournament.

The 14-year coach is a perfect 44-0 in the conference competition and is looking to keep the winning streak alive. Top-seeded Northwestern (17-7, 10-1 Big Ten) will begin its quest for a 14th consecutive championship trophy under Pollard at the Big Ten Tournament this weekend at Ohio State.

The Wildcats have lost only to fourth-seeded Nebraska this year, tainting their dominant season in the Big Ten. But as the team waits for its second-round match against Ohio State, who defeated Penn State in the first round,, Pollard said the Cats are not concerned with statistics.

“I don’t look at them and I don’t think the girls care,” she said. “We’re just fixated on making sure we give a great effort every single time. At this point, it’s about how we’re playing.”

NU defeated both Ohio State and Penn State over the course of one weekend during the regular season, the team’s first weekend back after a lengthy stretch of away games in early April. The Cats beat the Nittany Lions 6-1 for its 28th consecutive win over Penn State and then took down the Buckeyes 5-2, sweeping the doubles matches.

Since then, Pollard said her team has greatly improved, particularly in regards to the doubles problems the team was experiencing earlier this spring.

“It’s still a battle every time, though, and it’s always something we can improve,” she said. “But it’s nice to know that we have a good fighting chance at every single position we play now.”

NU also enters this year’s tournament with a somewhat unfamiliar advantage.

This is the first time in three years the team will begin the tournament having beaten its rival and this year’s second seed, Michigan, in the regular season. The Cats have faced The Wolverines in the past seven title games.

Sophomore Belinda Niu said that win will make the tournament very different from those the team’s experienced in past years.

“We were heading into the tournament last year after losing to Michigan in the regular season and we were really hungry to try and redeem ourselves,” she said. “Now we’re really focusing on our good wins from the regular season.”

The team is also hoping to build on the momentum it gained toward the end of regular season play. NU won 12 of its past 13 matches, including nine consecutive victories over Big Ten teams.

Pollard said she will stress staying strong mentally throughout the course of the tournament. Sophomore Nida Hamilton echoed her coach and said focus is one of the team’s keys to winning.

“Anyone is good enough to beat us on a bad day, ” Hamilton said. “Michigan is going to be the most out for blood. They’re really hungry. So we have to stay focused, put everything out there and not give anyone a chance.”

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