Women’s Tennis: Wildcats rally for split against Michigan schools

Mike Marut, Reporter

Over the weekend, Northwestern (12-6, 6-1 Big Ten) suffered its first Big Ten loss to Michigan (15-3, 7-0) on Saturday but bounced back against Michigan State (16-5, 4-3 Big Ten) on Sunday.

The two conference titans, the Wildcats and Wolverines, clashed in Ann Arbor, Mich. — possibly for the regular season title, with both teams undefeated in Big Ten play. NU started off on the wrong foot, losing the doubles point and therefore starting singles play down 1-0. In doubles, No. 21 duo senior Veronica Corning and sophomore Alicia Barnett were taken down by higher-ranked No. 18 Brooke Bolender and Emina Bektas 8-4. At No. 3 doubles, unranked tandem senior Belinda Niu and freshman Manon Peri fell to No. 66 Sarah Lee and Amy Zhu 8-5. That doubles match cemented the point for Michigan, and so the No. 2 doubles match went unfinished with the two pairs deadlocked at 7.

In singles play, the Cats turned up the heat, but it did not prove enough. At No. 1 singles, Corning, ranked No. 44, took revenge on her opponent, Bektas, ranked No. 9 at singles. Barnett, unranked in singles, also exacted revenge against Bolender, ranked No. 119. Junior Lok Sze Leung, a Daily staffer, also emerged victorious over Laura Ucros in three sets: 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Niu, Peri, and senior Nida Hamilton all fell in their singles matches, dooming NU to a 4-3 defeat.

Despite the disappointment a day earlier, the Cats came out strong against the Spartans. NU snatched the doubles point with quick victories at courts two and three. Freshman Brooke Rischbieth teamed up with Niu to win 8-3 at No. 3, while freshman Maddie Lipp and Hamilton claimed victory 8-2. Corning and Barnett battled hard but fell in a close match 8-7 (4) at No. 1 doubles.

After the Cats decided the doubles point, they took command in singles, winning five of the six matches. Four of the five victories were dominating performances for NU, with Michigan State never winning more than four sets. The longest singles match came from Peri and Olga Chernova at court four. The match went three sets, with Peri coming out on top, 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-3).

With the big victories in singles, NU cruised to a 6-1 win. With only four matches left in the regular season, the Cats need the Wolverines to lose two of their remaining conference contests to have a shot at winning the Big Ten. If Michigan wins three of the four, they will still earn the regular season title because of their tiebreaking victory over NU.

For the Cats to have a shot at the regular season crown, winning out is an absolute necessity. Their competition consists of Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Wolverines face off against Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue during the same time period and then all Big Ten teams will come to Evanston for the Big Ten Tournament at the end of April. If NU can win out, the Cats will have a full head of steam coming into the tournament and a shot at the conference title.

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