Women’s Tennis: Niu leads Wildcats to marathon win over Boilermakers

Senior Belinda Niu won her doubles match, then prevailed in a three-hour singles showdown with Purdue’s Daniela Vidal. The Wildcats topped the Boilermakers 4-3. “What would we do without Belinda Niu?” coach Claire Pollard said.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior Belinda Niu won her doubles match, then prevailed in a three-hour singles showdown with Purdue’s Daniela Vidal. The Wildcats topped the Boilermakers 4-3. “What would we do without Belinda Niu?” coach Claire Pollard said.

Mike Marut, Reporter

After four hours and 43 minutes of play, No. 7 Northwestern (7-3) toppled No. 39 Purdue (4-4) 4-3.

The Wildcats opened the match with a victory in the doubles point. Due to the absence of senior Nida Hamilton, coach Claire Pollard was forced to change up the doubles duos. No. 1 doubles stayed the same, with senior Veronica Corning and sophomore Alicia Barnett, but Nos. 2 and 3 changed.

On court two, senior Belinda Niu and freshman Brooke Rischbieth, who normally play on court three for doubles, teamed up for a victory against the Boilermakers’ Daniela Vidal and Natalia Davila, 8-1. Playing on court three were freshmen Maddie Lipp and Manon Peri, who also claimed victory 8-5. With the point clinched, Corning and Barnett attempted a comeback from down 5-2 but could not finish off their opponents.

“I think Belinda and Brooke stepped up at (No. 2 doubles) and looked great there,” Pollard said. “I think (Peri) stepped up really nicely and I was pleased to get on the board with the doubles point.”

At singles, Corning and Barnett finished their games handily, both winning 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, giving NU an early lead 3-1 as Lipp fell at No. 6 singles. After the early lead, Purdue climbed back into the match with victories late into the match against freshman Jillian Rooney and junior Lok Sze Leung.

“Lok Sze and Belinda showed true grit,” Barnett said. “Lok Sze had a really tough match losing the first set after being up 5-1 but she fought really hard. Belinda was unbelievable. She brought home the ‘W’ for us.”

Niu clinched the victory for the Cats with a win at No. 2 singles after three hours of playing the singles match. During the second set, Niu and her opponent, Vidal, locked up at 3-3 and after half an hour, Niu finally broke the wall and forced the match into a third set.

“Playing the match at 3-3 is sometimes intimidating,” Niu said. “You feel a lot of pressure. At the same time, you feel extremely motivated to close out the match for the team. I was thinking of the girls and how much the Big Ten means to our team and how much this match meant. I think I did feel pressure to close it out, but it motivated me in the right way.”

Earlier in the week, Pollard talked about the increased conditioning in practices due to a long break coming up for NU, which paid off for the Cats down the stretch against the Boilermakers.

But despite the win, the Cats realize they have work to do to improve their rankings and close matches out earlier against lower ranked teams. Both Pollard and Niu remarked on the team’s performance, with Niu calling her own performance “volatile” and noting she had lost her composure a few times during the match.

“(The overall performance was) very up and down,” Pollard said. “Good at some spots, need improvement at other spots. What would we do without Belinda Niu?”

Email: [email protected]northwestern.edu
Twitter: @mikeonthemic93