Women’s Tennis: Wildcats ‘hungry’ to start strong in 2014

Mike Marut, Reporter

Northwestern dominated the fall duals in November and is chomping at the bit to start the winter duals this weekend.

The Wildcats ended 2013 on a strong note, 17-3, in the Wildcat Fall Duals hosted in the Combe Tennis Center. NU lost two matches against Yale and one against DePaul. In the upcoming Wildcat Winter Duals, the Cats will face off against Big Ten opponent Iowa, Alabama and DePaul again.

“They all present different challenges and different things we’re going to have to overcome,” coach Claire Pollard said. “I think we’re still just mainly focused on ourselves, we still have a lot of questions to answer within ourselves, it’s very, very close between the nine players.”

This year, NU brought in four new freshmen to join the ranks. The team now has four freshmen, one sophomore, one junior and three seniors. Throughout the fall season, the four new freshmen on the team have acclimated well to the college setting and taken up their roles. Despite the heated competition for lineup spots among all nine girls, the whole team gets along.

“We all love our freshman,” senior Belinda Niu said. “They’ve adapted really well to college life, balancing sports and school really well. It’ll be fun to play alongside them in the team format this weekend.”

In 2013, freshman Manon Peri finished with an 8-1 record in singles. Peri finished the Wildcat Fall Duals with three straight wins. Freshman Brooke Rischbieth ended her fall career at 11-3 in the doubles column, freshman Maddie Lipp wrapped up the year 10-2 in doubles and freshman Jillian Rooney finished up at 8-3 in singles.

The youngest class came out strong in the non-traditional setting — the Cats have yet to play a regular match as a team, as all of their fall matches were individual contests.

“This will be the first time they’re playing an actual match,” senior Veronica Corning said. “We’ll see how they deal with the pressure, but I think they’ll have fun though. It’s a good atmosphere.”

Pollard looks forward to getting back on the court after the two-month break. The 2012-2013 season for the Cats ended on a bitter note, but the team bounced back triumphantly in the fall.

“I think there are some questions we’ll answer this weekend,” Pollard said. “It’s always scary after that long layoff. We’re hungry and excited, and I think it’ll be great playing against someone other than ourselves.”

NU has already taken on multiple Big Ten challengers such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, against whom the team saw mixed results in the fall. This will be the first time this year the Cats have a good look at Iowa.

“I think we’re going to come in strong,” Corning said. “We haven’t had a big competition in a while, so it’ll be fun to come out and play an actual match, all together, for once.”

Keeping with the Northwestern tradition, Pollard expects nothing short of excellence in 2014, and rightfully so. Under Pollard, the Cats have won 14 out of the last 15 Big Ten Championships with a record of 349-85.

“I expect a well-balanced team,” Pollard said. “I expect a solid doubles point. I expect a very evenly distributed lineup with tremendous depth and a lot of fight and heart.”

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