Women’s Tennis: Northwestern braces for difficult battle with rival Michigan

Northwesterns Veronica Corning is 13-7 in singles play this season and has won two straight matches. The juniors last match was her first this season at the No. 1 slot, which she won in a thrilling third-set tiebreaker.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Northwestern’s Veronica Corning is 13-7 in singles play this season and has won two straight matches. The junior’s last match was her first this season at the No. 1 slot, which she won in a thrilling third-set tiebreaker.

After coming up just short in its last three matches against nationally ranked opponents, No. 14 Northwestern hopes to change that trend this weekend when it welcomes Michigan State and No. 8 Michigan to Evanston.

NU comes off two dominating performances against conference foes Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Wildcats went a perfect 2-0 last weekend with convincing 7-0 victories, the first time this year they have held their opponents scoreless in consecutive contests.

The Spartans will have the first crack at ending the scoreless run Saturday. Michigan State is on a seven-match losing streak and has won only eight matches in those seven meets. NU has also dominated Michigan State historically, winning every contest between the two schools for more than a decade. MSU junior Marina Bohrer will be arguably the toughest competitor the Cats will have to deal with, as the Brazilian native is coming off wins in both singles and doubles against No. 17 Purdue.

If last year’s 4-3 win for the Cats is any indication, Michigan will prove to be a handful again for NU. The Wolverines come off an up-and-down weekend that saw them take down No. 17 Purdue but lose to unranked Indiana at home. The singles matches are expected to be true battles as the Wolverines have two top-50 singles players in the country: sophomore Emina Bektas and freshman Ronit Yurovsky. It won’t get any easier for the Cats when they have to face the second-ranked doubles team in Bektas and junior Brooke Bolender.

Luckily, difficult matches are nothing new for NU. Prior to last weekend, 14 of its last 15 opponents were ranked in the top 40 and seven were ranked in the top 15.

For their top-ranked doubles pair, the Cats will rely on veteran talent, including senior Linda Abu Mushrefova and junior Nida Hamilton. The duo is 17-9 this season but just 7-7 in dual meets. However, the pair boasts a 3-1 record in the Big Ten with its sole defeat coming in NU’s 4-3 loss to Nebraska on March 10.

NU will also need its single players to step up against the Wolverines and their duo of top-50 players. Junior Belinda Niu leads the team with 19 wins this season and is one of two players to go a perfect 5-0 in Big Ten matches so far this season. The pressure will be on senior Kate Turvy to regain her form from previous seasons when she won at least 25 matches. Turvy is just 13-12 this season, including a dismal 1-3 record in conference matches to go with her 5-8 mark in dual matches overall.

The match-up with the Wolverines has been intense the past several years as both programs have battled for the Big Ten regular season crown. One of the two schools has won the Big Ten regular season title since 1999 with NU capturing 11 of those titles. Last season, the teams tied at the top of the league with equal 10-1 records in conference play.