Women’s Tennis: With strong foundation, Wildcats gear up for first fall tournament


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Junior Alex Chatt celebrates after winning a match. Chatt and junior Maddie Lipp enter the fall season ranked No. 8 in doubles.

Robbie Markus, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Tennis

With six returning upperclassmen, a top-ten doubles team and two ranked singles players, Northwestern is ready to roll during its fall season.

Consistently one of the strongest teams in the Big Ten, the Wildcats will look to build on their performance from last year. As a team, NU only suffered one conference loss and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where it lost 4-2 to No. 3 North Carolina.

This year, the Cats will be led by their three juniors, Alex Chatt, Maddie Lipp and Erin Larner. Chatt and Lipp have proven to be a top doubles team in the country and recently repeated as champions at the ITA Summer Nationals in August.

The pair has earned a No. 8 pre-season ranking as a doubles team, and NU coach Claire Pollard indicated that Chatt and Lipp will likely play together again this season.

“It’s very enticing to stick Lipp and Chatt back together and know that you’ve got one great doubles team in the bag,” Pollard said.

In addition, Lipp and Larner are both recognized forces in singles. Lipp was the hero in the Cats’ home upset over No. 10 Michigan last year, defeating then-No. 18 Brienne Minor 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-4 to clinch the match 4-3 for NU. Lipp comes into the season ranked No. 30 individually. Meanwhile, Larner set the tone for the Cats last year, largely competing at No. 1 singles and notching 20 wins with three over ranked opponents.

Pollard said Larner, who opens the year ranked No. 61, and Lipp will pave the way for the team’s success in singles play.

“The experience that Erin and Maddie gained playing at the top of the lineup will really help them,” Pollard said.

On top of the returning juniors, seniors Jillian Rooney, Brooke Rischbieth and Manon Peri also come back and provide NU with a strong senior presence.

Rooney was often clutch last year for the Cats at No. 5 singles, especially when she won three straight games to clinch a 4-3 victory over Georgia Tech on Feb. 28. Meanwhile, Rischbieth was a constant source of consistent play at No. 6 singles and No. 2 doubles last year, and, although Peri struggled to stay healthy last season, if she can find her way back into the lineup, the senior has the potential to contribute.

Rounding out the rest of the team are redshirt sophomore Rheeya Doshi, sophomore Lee Or and freshman Nina Van Oost. After largely playing No. 5 singles her freshman year, Doshi redshirted last season. Or managed to grab eight singles and 10 doubles wins last year, while Van Oost comes in as a true freshman from Overijse, Belgium.

NU’s first test will come this weekend as it hosts the Wildcat Invite in Evanston. Although the nature of fall play is largely individual, with players competing in singles and doubles brackets in tournaments, Chatt said the team is looking to stay together as they prepare for team competition in the winter and spring.

“Having six upperclassmen, we have more of a responsibility to be more of a team and less individual,” Chatt said. “This weekend’s going to be pretty important to see where we are as a team.”

With the winningest coach in the Big Ten and a team with experience, chemistry and talent, the Cats will have a chance to solidify their status as contenders in the conference during their fall slate. Larner said that NU is ready to to do just that.

“We all know each other so well, we know each other’s game and our potential,” she said. “We’re just ready for this year.”

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