Women’s Tennis: Wildcats to take on Purdue

Mike Marut, Reporter

No. 7 Northwestern (6-3) feels amply prepared to take on No. 39 Purdue (4-3) on Saturday.

The Wildcats plan to defeat their tenth straight ranked opponent so far this season. NU opened Big Ten play against Indiana last week, blanking the Hoosiers 7-0. The Cats made the victory quick and painless, winning the doubles point 8-3, 8-4 at courts one and two. At singles, Indiana put up more of a fight, making most of the matches go to three sets.

Last year, Purdue and NU faced off twice: once in January and once in April. Both times, the Cats came out on top of the Boilermakers. During the first meet-up at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-off Weekend, then-No. 26 Purdue kept it close, only falling 4-2. NU lost at all three courts for the doubles point but bounced back in singles.

During the second match-up with the Boilermakers, the Cats took down Purdue 6-1 toward the end of the season. The tables turned in the doubles point, with NU winning all three matches. In singles, the only court the Cats lost went to the tiebreaker set.

This year, NU plans on beating Purdue in a similar fashion. So far, the Cats have dominated the matches they have won, including multiple upsets against top NCAA teams.

“The next three weeks, we’re really focusing on our physical,” coach Claire Pollard said. “We only play one match in the next two weekends then we take a weekend to get ready for finals, so we really need to use that time to get in the best shape we can because we’ve been competing so much and not able to do much physical work.”

The Cats have not stopped to rest since January. They have played nine matches in the last five weeks, all against ranked teams, so they have been tested. Initially against Vanderbilt, NU looked sloppy but came back and upset Texas A&M and Florida to claim a top-ten ranking. The Cats then ventured to the Lone Star State, where they won against Texas but were upset by Baylor.

Pollard said the doubles point is of the utmost importance and resonates through every player on the team, including the freshmen. When NU wins that, the Cats almost without fail win the match and vice versa.

“We’ve done really well when we have won the doubles point, so obviously we hope to win it,” freshman Jillian Rooney said. “Even if we don’t though, we should hopefully still get four singles matches.”

Seniors Belinda Niu, Veronica Corning and Nida Hamilton have shown tremendous leadership for the team, Rooney said. The three seniors have only lost once to Purdue in their time here and do not plan on losing to the Boilermakers again.

“We’re preparing for the Purdue match like we would for any other match,” Niu said. “(Pollard) probably mentioned conditioning at this point in the season and that’s because we have a stretch of three weeks where we have only one weekend match which really gives us more opportunities during the week to test our fitness and not be sore for the matches, so that’s really nice.”

Better fitness allows the Cats’ confidence in themselves to grow and stay on the court for as long as possible and outlast their opponents, leading to more victories for NU, Rooney said.

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