Women’s Tennis: Wildcats go the distance with Hurricanes, fall ‘a little short’

Mike Marut, Reporter

Northwestern fell to No. 6 University of Miami late Friday night in the NCAA Tournament round of 16.

In a thrilling match against the Hurricanes, the Wildcats took the contest all the way to 7 points but lost 4-3.

Nida Hamilton lost the first set 6-7 on court 6 after leading 3-0.  The junior then defeated Melissa Bolivar in the second set 6-1 to force a deciding third set. Hamilton was losing 5-4 and fought off two match points to reach 30-40.

“I just really wanted to make up for playing terribly in doubles,” Hamilton said.  “I came out really feisty. I wanted to try and get another point for my team.”

On what was to be the final shot of the game, Hamilton sliced one to the left side of the court. The ball appeared to bounce inside the line and the crowd, a mix of tennis players and fans, roared in approval of the great winner. However, Bolivar saw it differently and called the ball out of bounds.  The umpire did not overrule the call and with that, the match ended.

The crowd went into an uproar about the controversial call. Hamilton stood on the far side of the court in stunned silence. Many said they believed the ball had landed within the lines.

“I knew it had the potential to come down to me,” Hamilton said. “I really wanted to win it for us but came up a little short.”

Hamilton and Bolivar shook hands and parted ways. The Cats’ team season was over.

The Hurricanes had the Cats on the ropes even before the Hamilton-Bolivar match, with Belinda Niu losing 5-4 in her third set.  Niu then held on and won the game to tie her set at 5. Niu stormed ahead to win the thriller on court 3 and tie the score 3-3.

“After a particularly disappointing doubles point, I actually go into singles more motivated because I’m kind of looking for redemption,” Niu said. “I try to make up for the bad performance in doubles. That feeling was particularly heightened during this tournament because it’s our last tournament of the year. I knew I had to get my act together.”

NU’s doubles teams did not get off to a great start, as both the No. 1 and No. 3 duos lost by demoralizing 8-1 scores. The doubles point has been important for the Cats this season. NU was 19-2 through the season when it won the doubles point and only 1-7 including the Sweet Sixteen contest when it lost the point.

“It was such a disappointing doubles point,” coach Claire Pollard said. “It was shocking. I hadn’t seen us play that poorly and give something away that easily in a long, long time. Coming off that I wasn’t really sure what to expect in singles.”

After quick defeats on courts 1 and 2, the Cats buckled down on courts 3, 4, 5 and 6. At fourth singles, senior Linda Abu Mushrefova cleared her court with a 6-0, 6-4 victory. On court 5, freshman Alicia Barnett went three sets and emerged victorious 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. The wins shrunk Miami’s lead to 3-2, but the Hurricanes proved to be too powerful for the Cats in the end.

“I was just really proud of the effort they put forward,” Pollard said.  “The character of our team cannot be questioned. I’m really proud of them. We pride ourselves on being a tough out and putting forth a good effort and getting a lot out of ourselves. Today was a great example of that.”