Women’s Tennis: Cats lunge into NCAAs without Big Ten Tournament title

Rebecca Friedman

With the Big Ten Tournament in the back of their minds, the Wildcats look to end the 2012 season on a high note with a run in the NCAA Championship.

No. 11 Northwestern is set to face off against Mid-American Conference champion Akron at home Friday. Coming off their first loss in the Big Ten Tournament in the last 14 years, the Cats know they have to adjust both their play and mentality for the NCAA Championship.

“I’m hoping it fuels us,” coach Claire Pollard said about the disappointing loss. NU received a few days off to recover from a semifinal loss to Purdue and the long season but has been practicing hard for its next tournament.

“We just need to sit back and be smart,” Pollard said. “I’ll see how we come out the first day and when we are able to get our timing back. Tough love may be necessary.”

The Cats said their system and game has led them to great success all season, and each player has to focus on playing at her highest potential.

“We know what we need to get better at,” junior Linda Abu Mushrefova said. “It’s very individual.”

NU had a very successful regular season, winning the Big Ten title and going 18-8 overall and 10-1 in conference play.

“We have confidence,” Abu Mushrefova said. “We had a good season and we need to carry that into the NCAAs.”

Junior Kate Turvy agreed, noting the loss “doesn’t change our goals or beliefs.” Coming off such a successful season, NU knows it has a target on its back.

“Other teams have extra motivation to improve and to knock off top teams,” Turvy said. “They’ve been working.”

The Cats have been the first to give credit to their opponents all season, acknowledging the depth of the Big Ten this year as well as the improvement of other non-conference teams. Turvy said the team is grateful for every win.

No. 19 Turvy, one of the top players for the Cats all year, and sophomore Belinda Niu were named First Team All-Big Ten for the second consecutive year.

Turvy will go on to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship in Athens, Ga., later this month. The doubles pairing of Abu Mushrefova and sophomore Nida Hamilton will join her in Athens in the NCAA Doubles Championship.

As a top-16 seed in the tournament, NU will also host the second round. No. 18 Notre Dame and No. 61 Hawaii travel to Evanston to play their first-round match before NU and Akron’s matchup at 2 p.m. Friday. The winner of each match will face off in the second round on Sunday at noon.

Despite a disappointing finish in the Big Ten Tournament, the Cats are ready to bounce back regardless of the competition.

“We need to lay everything on the line for the last tournament,” Abu Mushrefova said. “We need to compete hard and finish strong.”

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