Women’s Tennis: Spring season commences down South

Mike Marut, Reporter

Women’s tennis

No. 17 Northwestern begins the highly competitive spring season this weekend in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the Mal Moore Invitational, where the Wildcats will take on the Crimson Tide as well as Florida State and Georgia Tech.

Without the star power of graduated players Veronica Corning, Belinda Niu and Nida Hamilton, NU’s freshmen will need to step up their game. During the fall season, the three new players showed off their skills for the rest of the college tennis world to see. Freshmen Alex Chatt and Rheeya Doshi won the doubles title in the Roberta Alison Fall Classic and freshman Erin Larner dominated singles, earning a record of 12-3.

“I’m looking forward to getting some answers to some questions,” coach Claire Pollard said. “We have a lot of questions at the moment with such a young team, so much upside. We’ve got to realize that and actualize that pretty quickly. So I’m looking forward to seeing (the team) against outside competition.”

One of those questions is the doubles lineup, with the doubles point being of the utmost importance to the Cats going forward. Of course losing the doubles point in a dual match puts the team down 0-1 instead of up 1-0, but, even adjusting for this disadvantage, the splits were still alarming. In last year’s dual season, NU posted a 2-6 record when losing the opening doubles point, and accrued an 18-1 mark when winning doubles. Pollard mentioned earlier in the week that the team has a lot of “parity,” so the players for doubles are almost interchangeable due to the “really good chemistry” of the team.

Traditionally, the Cats start the season facing Alabama, which proves to be a true test of strength. This year, NU opens against three top-30 teams: No. 8 Alabama, No. 18 Georgia Tech and No. 30 Florida State. The Cats will have to be firing on all cylinders to make it through the season-opening gauntlet.

“We’ve all done a lot of hard work, all through the fall,” sophomore Brooke Rischbieth said. “I know everyone did a really good job over break. We had our fitness tests on Sunday and everybody came back with a higher score than when they left so that’s always a fantastic sign.”

This will also be the first time Pollard reveals the starting six for singles and doubles. Earlier this week, Pollard said everybody has a chance to start, even the freshmen. To help the team prepare, Pollard has the players watch themselves and focuses practice more on NU than anybody else. This helps the players see their own mistakes and polish them off before the recorded scoring starts up in two weeks at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.

“We’ve watched some video, and we’ve been trying to teach high-percentage tennis,” Pollard said. “We play high-risk tennis too much for our liking so we’re trying to get back to high-percentage, low-risk tennis.”

With this being the opening weekend of the spring season, albeit unrecorded, the Cats are clawing at the gate to get started.

“I’m looking forward to see our team compete and see where we’re all at,” sophomore Manon Peri said. “We’ve all been working hard.”

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