Women’s Tennis: Wildcats seek revenge in third round matchup with Stanford

Ava Wallace

It was almost exactly one year ago that Northwestern returned to Evanston from Palo Alto, Calif., carrying a 4-2 loss against Stanford in the third round of the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships.

The Wildcats won’t be thinking about last year’s defeat as they face the Cardinal in the round of 16 yet again in this year’s NCAA Championships. The game plan for Thursday’s match won’t change regardless of who the opponent is.

“The game plan is always, no matter what, to be aggressive,” sophomore Veronica Corning said.

Corning did not participate in last season’s contest between the two clubs because she was playing at Boston College. The No. 4 singles spot, where Corning currently plays, was the only singles match the Cats won in last season’s matchup with the Cardinal.

This year marks the 12th time in 13 seasons that 13th seeded NU (20-8, 10-1) is one of the last 16 teams remaining, but the team hasn’t advanced to the quarterfinals since 2009. The Cats and the Cardinal (20-1, 9-1) will compete on neutral turf in Athens, Ga.

Thursday’s late-morning match marks Stanford’s 27th consecutive time in the round of 16; last year the Cardinal came up short to the Florida in the national finals.

Nonetheless, Stanford is no stranger to the trophy, having won the championship 17 times before – a fact that does not daunt NU junior Linda Abu Mushrefova.

The junior played then top-seeded Stanford last year at the No. 1 doubles and No. 5 singles spots. Sophomores Nida Hamilton and Belinda Niu as well as juniors Brittany Wowchuk and Kate Turvy join Abu Mushrefova as veteran players who took on Stanford last year, where NU won the doubles point.

Despite Stanford’s previous assertive presence at the championships, Abu Mushrefova has a strong belief in the Cats’ ability to pull off an upset this year.

“They’re tough,” the junior said, “but we can really take it to them.”

A good amount of coach Claire Pollard’s confidence in her team comes from its ability to adjust well to different circumstances – the Cats lost two players early in the year and struggled with securing a successful doubles lineup for the better part of the season.

“We’ve handled a lot of adversity this year, probably more adversity than I’ve ever faced here before,” Pollard said. “But we’ve asked a lot of people to step up, and they really finally have.”

After a season in which the Cats lost to only one Big Ten team and claimed a Big Ten Championship title for the 14th consecutive time, Pollard isn’t ready to give up the ghost just yet.

“We’ve worked hard to get this opportunity,” she said. “We don’t want to just be satisfied.”

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