Women’s Tennis: Wildcats go down to Bruins in NCAA Tournament to end season


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior Alicia Barnett stretches out to reach the ball. The No. 1 singles player for Northwestern wasn’t able to carry her team past a talented UCLA squad.

Alex Lederman, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

It was a long year for Northwestern.

The No. 26 Wildcats (16-8, 9-2 Big Ten) opened the season with a loss, struggled to get the ball rolling and never quite found their rhythm. Two starters faced season-ending injuries before spring and the team’s streak of 16 straight Big Ten titles came to an end.

But now, the season is over. The Cats fell 4-0 to No. 6 UCLA (20-4, 8-2 Pac-12) Sunday in round two of the NCAA Tournament.

“The entire season, we didn’t play against any team as good as UCLA,” senior Lok Sze Leung said. “That was the first time we saw a team of that caliber. Even though we fought hard, we were just not good enough.”

Before falling Sunday, NU rolled past No. 40 St. Mary’s (California) in the first round Saturday. The Cats swept the Gaels 4-0.

The doubles point was tight. Junior Alicia Barnett and freshman Erin Larner cruised 8-1 at No. 1, but freshman Alex Chatt and Leung lost a tight match 8-6 at No. 3. Freshman Rheeya Doshi and sophomore Brooke Rischbieth broke the tie with an 8-6 nail-biter at No. 2.

But singles was all Cats. Barnett, Larner and Chatt all breezed through their matches in straight sets to give NU the sweep. NU leading in two of the other three matches when play was suspended.

The next day against the defending national champion UCLA didn’t go so well.

Again the doubles point was tight, but this time NU ended up on the bottom. Chatt and Leung dominated at No. 3, winning 8-1, but Barnett and Larner fell 8-1 and Doshi and Rischbieth lost 8-4.

Leung said she and Chatt played their best doubles match all year.

As for singles, the Cats didn’t pick up a set. Ironically, Barnett, Larner and Chatt — the three players with easy victories one day earlier — fell quickly this time. Once again, Leung, Doshi and Rischbieth’s matches were left incomplete.

“We got beat,” Doshi said, “but all of us played really well and we came together as a team.”

The loss marks the end of Leung’s career. She is the team’s lone senior.

Leung transferred from Middlebury College after her sophomore year and played to a 48-19 record in her two years at NU.

“It was an emotional moment for me,” Leung said of the Cats’ loss. “But for me, I liked the way it ended. I played against a really good player — top 200 in the world. It was an experience to play against someone that good, and I played really well against her.”

Leung is returning home to Hong Kong after graduation. She said she plans to enjoy the rest of her time her in the United States, because she doesn’t know when she’ll be back next.

“It’s been a privilege for me to end my tennis career as a Wildcat,” she said.

But even after a disappointing season, the future looks bright for the Cats. With the five other starters returning — plus Peri and sophomore Maddie Lipp coming back from injuries — NU is ready to return to the top next year.

It helps that the injuries gave all three freshmen extra playing time.

“Playing all these matches, I learned a lot in terms of experience and being part of the team culture,” Doshi said. “It was a tough season, but it has made me a stronger person.”

Leung may not be a part of next year’s squad, but she has more confidence in her teammates than anyone.

“This might be the group that can finally bring this team back to the top 10,” she said.

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