Women’s Tennis: Wildcats to take on ITA Indoor Championships

Mike Marut, Reporter

Northwestern (2-1) will head to the University of Virginia this weekend to take on the highest ranked teams in the country at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Women’s Team Indoor Championships.

First up for the Wildcats is the Texas A&M Aggies (3-0). Last time the two faced off, NU toppled Texas A&M 5-2 in 2005. At the time, the Cats were ranked No. 5 in the nation and the Aggies were No. 16. This time around, the tables have turned — Texas A&M is No. 7 and NU is No. 16 in the ITA rankings.

Coming into this week, NU had its work cut out for them. Falling to No. 15 Vanderbilt 5-2 forced the Cats to come out of their comfort zone of beating teams handily.

“I feel like we had a lot of opportunities against Vanderbilt but we just didn’t execute,” freshman Maddie Lipp said. “This week we’re going to have a good week of practice and execute better. We’ve really been practicing ball tolerance and making sure we make our opponent play.”

The first step to upsetting the Aggies is winning the doubles point, which the Cats live and die by. Failing to win the doubles matches has historically resulted in a loss, including last weekend against Vanderbilt.

“We’ve watched video, watched all the matches,” coach Claire Pollard said. “We had game points in the individual games, so I think just better execution, more clarity on the game-plan, having a clearer idea of what we need to do, and we need to serve better.”

The Cats’ doubles tandems are all ranked. Doubles senior Veronica Corning and sophomore Alicia Barnett claim the No. 35 spot, senior Belinda Niu and Lipp, No. 45 and senior Nida Hamilton and freshman Brooke Rischbieth, No. 54. Because of the tandems’ dominating force, Pollard does not plan on changing them up too much going into this weekend.

Vanderbilt was the highest ranked team NU has faced all year until this weekend. The Cats cruised past all of their opponents besides the Commodores.

“After (watching) videos, it was kind of just another wake-up call, seeing how many errors we’ve made,” senior Veronica Corning said. “We saw that we needed to make a presence on the court which was lacking against Vanderbilt. (That game) was a reminder we need that.”

Despite faltering at doubles, Pollard felt confident in the team’s ability to bounce back. Throughout the week, they mostly worked on singles and watched more video on doubles, Corning said.

“It’s more strategic,” Corning said. “Kind of seeing where you should be on the court. We’ve been doing a lot of ‘quality balls on court.’ (The most important strategy is) ball selection and placement. A couple of us have made some bad decisions during the match that is easy to fix.”

Leaving the Vanderbilt loss behind them and coming into this weekend, the Cats have regained their confidence and are more than ready to take on top-16 competition.

“We can definitely win, but we have to be on our A-game,” Corning said.

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