Women’s Tennis: Northwestern’s confidence grows entering NCAA Tournament


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior Veronica Corning has paced the Wildcats all season from the top singles spot and hopes to do the same in the NCAA Tournament. Corning has gone 14-10 on the season and upset six highly ranked opponents.

Mike Marut, Reporter

This year marks the 16th straight season Northwestern enters the NCAA Tournament and 15th straight hosting the first two rounds in Evanston.

The No. 15 Wildcats (19-6, 10-1 Big Ten) ended the Big Ten Tournament on an exciting note, with senior Belinda Niu rallying from a 5-2 deficit to defeat her Michigan opponent and clinch a 4-3 win for NU in the finals.

“I think the important thing on Sunday was never losing hope,” Niu said. “Before that match with Michigan (coach Claire Pollard) actually used an example of a prior match we had with them that happened during my freshman year where we were down in the team outcome 0-3 but still managed to turn it around. That’s something I thought a lot about even when I was down 5-2.”

Niu won the most matches for her team this season and emerged as one of the leaders for the team. She took down 15 opponents over the course of the 2013-14 season and coach Claire Pollard could not be happier.

“(I find her to be an emotional leader) 100 percent, and I get on her about it all the time,” Pollard said. “When she doesn’t bring it, I think we’re a little bit void of something. When you’re a good leader, when you don’t show up it really can be hurtful. I’ve been on her all year ‘when you set the bar as you have then you’ve got to bring it all the time’ and I think she’s done a great job of that this year.”

The Cats will first take on the Red Hawks from Miami University (17-6, 7-1 Mid-American). NU has trounced Miami in all seven meetings between the two schools, the most recent of which was back in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. This season is the second consecutive that the Red Hawks have qualified for the tournament.

To earn a place among the top 64 teams, Miami won the Mid-American Conference over Eastern Michigan, winning 4-2. The team is led by freshman Andreea Badileanu who has posted an 18-4 record primarily at the No. 2 singles, the same position as Niu.

Niu is not the only leader on the Cats’ team. Senior Veronica Corning and sophomore Alicia Barnett, a Daily staffer, have also stepped up both in their role as No. 1 doubles tandem and No. 1 and No. 3 singles, respectively. Corning took on top singles players in the country and upset six of them during the regular season. With a singles record of 14-10, the senior has led the team to many victories.

“I think we’re all still very much on the high of winning (the Big Ten Tournament),” Corning said. “We’re all still really excited and joyous about it. It’s time to dig down deep and get ready for the next tournament but still use the excitement and confidence that came from the last tournament.”

Barnett has also carried her weight this season. At the third singles court, she did not lose any of her 10 matches on her singles court in the Big Ten. With so many wins under her belt, her confidence has skyrocketed.

“(Having a perfect Big Ten season) definitely helped a lot,” Barnett said. “I worked hard and it helped, each match gave me a little more confidence so going into this weekend will be good.”

Along with Barnett’s confidence, Pollard’s confidence has also gone up. Earlier in the season, the coach gave NU the goal of winning a match without the doubles point.

The team failed to fulfill the goal until the conference tournament, first with the first-round victory over Indiana and then again against Michigan, which Pollard called “maybe the best match since I’ve been here at Northwestern.”

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