Women’s Tennis: Northwestern tops a pair of conference foes

Mike Marut, Reporter

No. 11 Northwestern (11-5, 5-0 Big Ten) pounced on conference opponents No. 54 Ohio State (11-7, 2-3) and unranked Penn State (4-13, 0-5) over the weekend, winning by a combined score of 13-1.

The Wildcats came out swinging in Evanston, beating the Buckeyes 6-1 and the Nittany Lions 7-0. The only loss against Ohio State came from No. 1 singles, where senior Veronica Corning, ranked No. 44 in the country, fell to Gabriella De Santis after the overall match was already won. This victory was NU’s 15th straight victory over the Buckeyes.

“I was very pleased with Saturday (against Ohio State),” coach Claire Pollard said. “I thought they are far better than what their ranking says.”

Over the break, freshman Manon Peri stepped up and solidified her spot in the starting six for the Cats. Against Georgia Tech, Peri won her singles match (4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-7)), lost in three sets in a loss to No. 8 North Carolina, won her match 3-6, 7-6 (6), 1-0 (8) against No. 1 Duke, dominated in her Ohio State match 6-0, 6-1 and won 6-2, 6-3 in the Penn State victory.

“(Peri) has really developed into her role at No. 4 singles,” Pollard said. “We’ve been trying to hit our stride since January, and we have to be ready every time.”

With Peri, freshman Maddie Lipp “has been turning the corner,” Pollard said. Lipp has formed a potent doubles pair with senior Nida Hamilton Hamilton — who has played doubles every year she has been at NU — brings a lot of experience to the tandem being, while Lipp brings great energy as a freshman who has fit right in with the team and its winning ways.

The sweep of the Nittany Lions did not come as much of a surprise for Pollard.

“Coming in against Penn State, I knew we had a good chance at winning,” she said. “It’s nice to win comfortably.

The match against the Nittany Lions was the sixth time the Cats have zeroed their opponent, the third time against another Big Ten team. The victory also keeps NU undefeated all-time against Penn State.

The match started with a dominating performance in the doubles point, with senior Belinda Niu and Peri claiming the first victory 8-0 against the Nittany Lions’ Taylor Shukow and Lisa Petruzillo. The Cats dominated across the board, never ceding more than four games for the doubles point and no more than three games in the singles matches, except at No. 1, where Corning won her match 6-1, 7-6 against Dasha Sapogova. 

Despite falling to No. 10 North Carolina and top-ranked Duke, the Cats have shown again they have come out to play and win another Big Ten title. Being undefeated in conference play puts NU in position to be the undisputed regular season champion. Because the Cats host the Big Ten Tournament, they have home-court advantage to win the conference crown. NU will face unranked conference opponent Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor.

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