Women’s Tennis: Wildcats record second conference shutout, bolster confidence


Daily file photo by Sophie Mann

Alicia Barnett prepares a backhand shot. After beginning the season on a sour note, the Wildcats have gone undefeated in Big Ten play.

Mike Marut, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

Northwestern struggled at the season’s start in out-of-conference play, but as Big Ten play gets underway the Wildcats are hitting their stride.

With only conference matchups left on the schedule, NU (7-8, 5-0 Big Ten) has begun to refocus on success within the Big Ten. Against Nebraska on Saturday, the Cats found themselves with an early lead, taking the doubles point at courts 2 and 3. Sophomore Erin Larner clinched the match with her win at No. 1 singles. The Cats finished the match with a 5-2 victory over the Cornhuskers.

NU notched its second shutout of the season against Iowa on Sunday. Against the Hawkeyes, the Cats had five single matches finish in straight sets. Within the match, freshman Lee Or recorded a shutout of her own at No. 6 singles court.

“Every time (my opponent) turned up a level, I started putting more balls in and dialed myself in,” Or said. “It’s tricky when you’re up … and you say ‘Oh, I can just lay back,’ but you (can’t).”

The sixth singles match to finish went to a 10-point tiebreak set with Larner mounting a comeback win. After losing the first set 4-6, Larner stormed to victory in the second set, 6-2.  Because NU had won the overall match already after a victory from sophomore Alex Chatt pushed the Cats to 4 points, Larner and her opponent, Zoe Douglas, broke the tie with the 10-point set instead of playing a full third set.

“I knew going into a 10-point tiebreaker that those can go really quick,” Larner said. “I didn’t want to get down too fast or let (Douglas) get in her groove again like she had in the first set and a little bit of the second. … I got off to a good start which I think really helped.

Larner finished off Douglas in the tiebreaker 10-3.

These two wins come after a tough Spring Break in Texas, where NU did not win any matches. Coach Claire Pollard said earlier in the week that Big Ten play is more important than non-conference games, but in the end, the weekend sweep was just “two wins.”

For her players, the wins have helped the team buckle down and gain self-confidence.

“We didn’t start the season so well,” Or said. “This is a great opportunity to come back. … Winning always brings confidence, we see how good we actually are. The beginning of the season was not who we are. We are better than that.”

Pollard said she is excited to stick with conference play for the rest of the season, as it gives the team the opportunity to focus on the goals at hand.

“If we’ve had any success this year, it’s been in the (conference),” Pollard said. “That’s kept us going, and we still have our goals intact. … It’s important we focus our energy into that.”

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