Women’s Tennis: Wildcats, freshmen looking to bring ‘grit’ to ITA Kick-Off

Mike Marut, Reporter

No. 17 Northwestern will host No. 32 Arizona State, No. 21 Rice and No. 44 Kentucky in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend that commences Saturday.

This is the first competition of 2015 that counts toward the Wildcats’ record. Not having played a true competitive team match since last season, the Cats’ players are itching to take down the Sun Devils on Saturday, then the Owls or Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday. Coming off a strong weekend in Alabama, coach Claire Pollard looks forward to kick-starting the event.

“It’s time to get the show on the road and get the scorebook going,” Pollard said. “That’s what you come to college tennis to do, that’s what you came to Northwestern for — to play in the biggest matches we could find. Everyone is geared up and ready for that.”

Arizona State comes into the first weekend of competition having swept its first opponent, the University of California, Davis. The sweep provides a certain level of confidence for the Sun Devils, but the Cats are ready to rumble. The ITA Kick-Off also marks the first weekend of true collegiate competition for the freshmen joining the team.

“Going into this tournament, we know there is a lot of pressure,” freshman Alex Chatt said. “We’re all pretty ready. We’ve been practicing hard and training hard. We’ve all been playing well under pressure.”

With sophomore Maddie Lipp out with an injury, Pollard only has eight players to choose from when deciding who will start for singles and doubles. Earlier in January, Pollard noted even the freshmen were working at a level such that they have a chance to play in the upcoming competition.

Coming off a strong fall season in the doubles category — winning the doubles title in Alabama back in November — freshman Rheeya Doshi is excited to get on the court and play in counted competition for her team for the first time in her college career.

“I enjoyed playing for the team (last weekend),” Doshi said. “Of course there is pressure (this weekend), but I’m just going to play my best and not think about that. I’m just going to play for the team, play for myself and give 100 percent.”

To prepare for the approaching weekend, NU watched film mainly on itself and only rarely on its opponents. Pollard likes to keep the attention focused on her players, not what everybody else is doing. After watching the video from last weekend and from practice, the Cats know what they have to do to be ready.

“We felt our quality was inferior to a lot of our opponents last weekend in terms of depth, penetration and pace,” Pollard said. “We picked one thing for each doubles team and just generally moving along the progression to make sure we’re match-ready.”

NU plans to bring its full effort this weekend and explode out of the gate. Hitting the ground running will be important for the Cats to show opponents they have not skipped a beat since ending the 2014 season.

“The best thing we can bring out there is grit,” Chatt said. “We all have great energy, and that’s what everybody should be looking for when they’re watching us this weekend.”

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