Women’s Tennis: Northwestern gets ‘reality check’ against No. 15 Vanderbilt

Mike Marut, Reporter

Despite its bright spots, No. 16 Northwestern struggled in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to No. 15 Vanderbilt.

The Wildcats (2-1) only won the No. 1 and No. 2 singles points in their match against the Commodores (3-0). Unranked senior Veronica Corning defeated her third straight ranked opponent in No. 61 Lauren Mira 6-1, 6-2.

The only other positive outing for NU was senior Belinda Niu in her come-from-behind victory. Niu lost the first set 6-3, but came roaring back to win the second set, tiebreaker and match. Even though she had reason to give up, considering the team match had already been settled in favor of Vanderbilt, Niu powered through to win the tiebreaker 12-10.

“Initially, it’s always hard not to be disappointed when the team outcome has already been decided,” Niu said. “I just tried to motivate myself to keep playing because with the thought that even though we still lost, a 4-3 or 5-2 outcome is still better than a 6-1 loss.”

Traditionally, the Cats springboard to victory by dominating the doubles point. Against the Commodores, that wasn’t the case as Vanderbilt took all three doubles matches, the closest being the third, which NU lost 6-4.

“I was just very disappointed with our doubles,” coach Claire Pollard said. “I thought we got what we deserved.”

The doubles point is a major part of the Cats’ offense. Last season, when NU won the doubles point, it went 20-2. When the Cats lost the doubles point, they were 1-7.

Pollard ascribed the loss mainly to her team’s listlessness — Vanderbilt is ranked only one spot above NU in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

“I think we looked like a totally different team from last weekend,” Pollard said. “You got to give Vanderbilt credit — they’re obviously a very good team — but I thought we were flat and no energy.”

The same feeling resonated through the players as well.

“This is just kind of a wakeup call,” Corning said. “There are good teams out there, and this is one of the good ones that we’ve faced. We just have to put ourselves back together and be ready for the next one.”

Throughout this week in practice, the Cats will be preparing for the ITA Indoor Championships held at the University of Virginia.

“I think we’re going to try and get as pumped up as we can,” Corning said. “We’re all going to meet together and have a nice talk about the match and what maybe we can do to get more pumped up for the next ones coming up, but I think we’ll bounce back fine.”

Vanderbilt is the third ranked team in a row that NU has faced. At the ITA Indoor Championships, the top 16 teams in the nation will be fighting for victory, including the Commodores.

“I think it’s a quick awakening for the girls,” Pollard said. “I think it’s better to have that now than get there and suddenly see it. I think it’ll be helpful from that point of view. We’ll see how we handle it.”

Despite the loss, Niu said playing the Commodores was a beneficial experience for the Cats.

“You could definitely tell that the level was a lot more competitive today, so I think it’s good that we got a little bit of a reality check before heading to (ITA Indoor Championships) and playing even better teams,” Niu said. “I think we learned a lot today and will use that to motivate ourselves for Indoors.”

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