Daily file photo by Brian Lee
No. 13 Northwestern clinched the second seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament after blanking Wisconsin and Minnesota over the weekend.
The Wildcats (16-6, 10-1 Big Ten) ended the regular season on a strong note by beating both of their opponents 7-0 on their respective courts over the weekend. The two victories foretell a strong showing by NU next weekend as it returns home to host the Big Ten Tournament.
“Overall, it was a good weekend,” coach Claire Pollard said. “We had good consecutive outdoor matches and played very well at number one doubles. (Sophomore Alicia Barnett) had a really good weekend. We’re just trying to play our best tennis when it counts at the end of the season.”
With her victories over the weekend, Barnett claimed a perfect 10-0 Big Ten season at No. 3 singles, only entering the tie-breaking game and set twice. Excluding those two matches, against Michigan and Indiana, the sophomore let just two conference opponents ever take even four games in a set.
After their win against Wisconsin (7-12, 2-9), the Cats officially claimed the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. Their only loss came from Michigan two weeks ago, losing 4-3. That contest became a great learning experience for the team, Pollard said, and rather than dwell on the loss, they came back ferociously to end the Big Ten season with three shutouts in the final four matches.
“The team was disappointed with finishing second,” Pollard said. “I told them at the end of the weekend, a lot of programs would be excited to be second in their conference. We need to take some pride in it and play our best tennis next weekend.”
For the past couple of weeks, NU has set performance goals for itself, ranging from winning a match without the doubles point to, most recently, “playing a perfect match attitude-wise,” Pollard said. The Cats were not able to achieve a victory without the doubles point this season, and despite great team chemistry, NU had trouble playing an attitude-perfect match this weekend.
“We were testy (against Minnesota),” Pollard said. “It was just one of those days, I guess. We were getting excited for the tournament and we might have been getting ahead of ourselves.”
The Cats pride themselves on not overlooking any of their opponents, no matter their record. They have a firm, unwritten belief similar to many other sports teams’ mentality of “any given Sunday.” They believe any team can win on any given day if the conditions are right and the team fires on all cylinders.
NU cleaned up shop and ended the season on a strong note and is more than ready to begin the Big Ten Tournament. With only one loss against Michigan, the Cats are poised to meet the Wolverines once again in the tournament championship and compete for the crown.
“They’re a great group of girls,” Pollard said of the team this weekend. “They work hard, they’re coachable and they’re fun to be around. I give them a lot of credit for a great regular season.”
Email: [email protected]