Women’s Tennis: Wildcats ready to fight in NCAA Tournament


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Brooke Rischbieth hits a backhand shot. The junior amassed a 10-3 record at the No. 6 singles spot this season.

Robbie Markus, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

Coach Claire Pollard knows what she’s doing as Northwestern (13-10, 10-1 Big Ten) heads into its 18th straight NCAA Tournament.

Pollard boasts an overall record of 369-92 over 17 years at the helm. The closest Pollard has come to a championship is 5th place, which she reached 3 times in 2006, 2008 and 2009. And on Wednesday, the Wildcats left for the University of North Carolina, where the Cats will face Ole Miss (13-11, 3-10 Southeastern) in the first round of the tournament.

“We’ve prepared as much as we can for this match,” sophomore Alex Chatt said. “We’re ready to play Ole Miss; we’re a lot more mentally prepared.”

NU’s last match was a rough 4-0 loss to No. 11 Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal. However, NU defeated the Wolverines to close out the regular season at home, edging out the Wolverines 4-3.

The Cats’ second half of the season was dominant as the team went 8-2 down the stretch, a fantastic mark relative to their 5-8 record after the first 13 matches.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss’ season has also been a story of two halves, but unlike NU, the Rebels have struggled as the season has come to a close. Ole Miss started the season 8-3 but closed out its last 13 matches at 5-8.

Another stark contrast between the teams is the conference record. The Cats only recorded one regular season conference loss compared to the Rebels, who lost 10 matches to SEC teams.

Despite the weak finish, NU players said they can’t overestimate their opponent.

“We can’t look past Ole Miss,” Chatt said. “They’re going to compete just as hard as we’re going to.”

But if the Cats can get past the first round, they’ll likely face an even more daunting task in the No. 3 Tar Heels (29-2, 14-0 Atlantic Coast).

After being eliminated in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament, North Carolina only dropped 2 matches this year for the second straight season, earning the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

The last time the Cats faced the Tar Heels was in the 2013-14 season, when NU fell 6-1.

Although the competition in the tournament is strong, sophomore Maddie Lipp said she has confidence in her teammates.

“In women’s tennis, anything can happen,” Lipp said. “If everyone shows up, we have a pretty good chance of beating anyone.”

NU has certainly shown up in the past, as the last time the Cats lost a first round match was during the 2002-03 season to Kansas State.

Pollard has consistently stressed the importance of preparation all year, and has been no different in anticipation for the tournament ahead.

“To beat a top team, you have to have a chance at every spot,” Pollard said. “We need everyone to show up at every spot throughout the whole contest.”

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