Women’s Tennis: Cats look toward ITA Championships in Charlottesville

Alex Putterman, Reporter

After two straight losses, things aren’t getting any easier for Northwestern.

On Friday, the Wildcats (2-2) will be in Charlottesville, Va. for what they hope will be a long week at the ITA Indoor Team Championships. NU’s first opponent in the 16-team tournament will be No. 9 Alabama (4-0), seeded seventh in the tournament.

Led by No. 12 Mary Anne Macfarlane and No. 13 Alexa Guarachi, the Crimson Tide has won convincingly in each of its four meets, including in three victories over ranked opponents. They defeated No. 50 Memphis and No. 19 Clemson in January to reach the main draw of the ITA Championship tournament, then headed to Texas for back-to-back road wins over TCU and SMU.

In addition to Macfarlane and Guarachi, Alabama plays two other nationally ranked players, No. 59 Maya Jansen and No. 105 Natalia Maynetto, while the Cats’ only ranked player is no. 67 Kate Turvy. Macfarlane and Guarachi also form the second-ranked doubles pair in the country and will be a tough match-up for NU’s top pair, No. 42 Nida Hamilton and Linda Abu Mushrefova. NU is 3-1 all-time against the Crimson Tide but has not faced Alabama since 2006, when the Cats won 6-1.

The ITA Championships are single-elimination and run from Feb. 8 to Feb. 11. All teams participating are ranked in the top 21 of the ITA Women’s Team Rankings. Defending tournament champion UCLA, currently ranked second in the country, is this year’s top seed.

NU qualified for the main draw of the tournament by defeating Arkansas on Jan. 25 and winning a thriller against Purdue the following day. As the 14th seed, the Cats will likely be underdogs in every match they play, including against the Crimson Tide.

If the Cats beat the Crimson Tide, they will meet the winner of the match between No. 3 Duke (4-0) and No.15 Baylor (3-1) on Jan. 9. NU lost 4-0 to the Blue Devils on Feb. 3 in Evanston and lost 4-2 to the Bears last season.