Women’s Tennis: Wildcats prepare for difficult conference test


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Alex Chatt admires a backhand shot. The sophomore is 3-3 in her in-conference singles matches so far this season.

Mike Marut, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

Thus far in the Big Ten season, Northwestern has proven itself as one of the teams to beat.

This weekend, the Wildcats (9-8, 7-0 Big Ten) will be put to the test against another top-10 opponent in conference rival No. 5 Ohio State (21-2, 7-0) on Sunday after taking on Penn State (8-9, 4-3) on Friday. NU and the Buckeyes have breezed past their conference opponents, at least on the scoreboard, with the Cats notching 3 shutouts on the season against Big Ten opponents and the Buckeyes not dropping a point to any conference competitors.

“Obviously, we can’t overlook Penn State (on Friday), but the ante is upped on Sunday for sure,” coach Claire Pollard said. “They’re having a phenomenal year. … I’m looking forward to ruining their season.”

In the standings, the Cats may have lost more than the Buckeyes this season in out-of-conference matches, but Pollard said that a schedule packed with ranked opponents has helped prepare her team.

“Overall, the tough non-conference schedule was to help prepare us for moments like this on Sunday,” she said.

Some of the players are also looking back to specific opponents like then-No. 14 Duke and then-No. 5 Vanderbilt. These two matches proved to be some of the toughest opponents of the year, and although NU didn’t come out on top, it was able to make both of them close competitions at 4-3.

Although the Cats have faced a couple of other teams of such high caliber, the final scores of those matches were not as close. With those losses nagging in the back of players’ minds, NU is motivated to compete with Ohio State.

One thing the Cats cannot allow, though, is to let excitement get the best of them.

“We don’t want to get ourselves too amped up, we don’t want to go in there as headless chickens,” sophomore Alex Chatt said. “We need to go in there just as competitive and treat it like just another match.”

Going into this week, sophomore Erin Larner, who has been NU’s No. 1 singles player, can enter the matches with a little extra confidence. Larner earned Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors on Tuesday, the second time the award has been given to the program this season.

Larner is gracious for the award, but she said it’s not just a credit to her own hard work but the team’s overall.

“(The award) really reflects how the whole team has done this season,” Larner said. “A little bit of recognition helps, but there’s still a lot left to do this season.”

With some added confidence and a drive to keep the conference win streak going, the Cats are looking to knock off the Buckeyes from the undefeated ranks.

“That’s really our No. 1 goal right now, to beat a top-10, top-15 team,” Chatt said. “That’s what we really need and what we really want right now.”

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