Women’s Tennis: Wildcats stumble in loss to Stanford

Ava Wallace and Ava Wallace

It was a different location and the same result for the Wildcats on Thursday.

For the second year in a row, Northwestern ended its season with a loss to Stanford University in the third round of the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships. The 13th-seeded Cats (20-9, 10-1) traveled to Athens, Ga., to play the fourth-seeded Cardinal (21-1, 9-1) this time around and ended the afternoon with a 4-1 loss.

“Honestly, we knew we would have to play a tough match,” sophomore Brittany Wowchuk said. “Ultimately, it just came down to them being a really good team.”

Despite the loss, coach Claire Pollard said her team did a good job of taking calculated risks.

“We knew we were going to have to raise our level up about as high as we could because they weren’t going to lower their level or play down,” she said. “We did a good job of finding that fine line between playing big tennis and not making too many mistakes. When you play big, there’s always that added risk.”

For the ever-tricky doubles point, the Cats matched up against two top-ranked teams in No. 2 Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs, playing the No. 1 doubles spot, and No. 24 Ellen Tsay and Stacey Tan, who played No. 2 for Stanford.

Although NU grabbed the doubles point in 2011, Stanford dominated on Thursday. Nonetheless, Pollard said the team wasn’t shaken.

“It’s been such a tough year and doubles was a big struggle, but at the same time we didn’t lose a ton of confidence when we lost that point today, ” she said. “We competed so hard and really battled it out.”

After losing the doubles point, however, the Cats faced a tall order in trying to defeat four players in Stanford’s daunting singles lineup, which included three top-25 ranked players. Gibbs, who is ranked number three in the country, played the No. 1 spot; Burdette, ranked fifth in the nation, played the No. 2 singles spot; and Tan, ranked 25th, played the No. 3 spot for the Cardinal. Junior Kate Turvy, sophomore Belinda Niu and Wowchuk played the one, two and three spots respectively, but went 0-2 with one unfinished match against the Stanford lineup. Niu did not finish her match after splitting the first two sets, while both Turvy and Wowchuk fell in straight sets.

The fourth Stanford point came courtesy of Tsay’s 6-1, 6-2 win over sophomore Veronica Corning, which was the first singles match to finish.

Junior Linda Abu Mushrefova was the only Cat to end the day with a win, beating Veronica Lin 6-4, 6-3 at the No. 5 singles spot. The two faced each other last year in a match that went unfinished.

“The matchup worked out well for me,” Abu Mushrefova said. “I basically tried to scramble and play tough – to try to make the match as physical as possible.”

Abu Mushrefova may get another chance to play in the Championships next year, as all of the players who competed today will return in the fall. But before they start thinking about the 2012-2013 season, Pollard and her team will turn their attention to the NCAA Single’s and Double’s tournaments, which take place from May 23-28 in Athens, Ga.

Turvy will represent the Cats in the singles competition and Abu Mushrefova and sophomore Nida Hamilton, who have eight wins together for the season, will compete for the doubles championship.

And despite the tennis still ahead for some of the girls, Pollard said it is finally time for her team to relax.

“We’ll think about what we can do next year to make sure we can take that next step,” she said. “But as a team, we’ll sort of sit back and let the emotions die down.”

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