Women’s Tennis: Northwestern will face its first test this weekend at ITA regionals


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Erin Larner kneels before a point. The junior will look to lead Northwestern through a packed weekend in Durham.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

Northwestern has cruised through its early non-conference slate, collecting a string of expected wins, but the team’s competition will get much tougher this weekend when it travels to Durham for the first stage of the ITA tournament.

The regional is hosted by No. 10 Duke and includes Tulsa and William & Mary — two teams that have also racked up collections of easy victories in their respective non-conference seasons. Tulsa received votes in this week’s ITA team rankings.

“We’ve seen some teams that have had some good competitors,” junior Erin Larner said. “But on a team like Duke or Tulsa or William & Mary, those teams you’re going to have all the girls across the board playing their hearts out.”

The ITA Kick-off Weekend is the qualification round for the ITA Indoor National Championship, which starts in mid-February. The tournament features 15 regional brackets, and the winner from each region advances to the national stage.

But winning the region won’t be an easy task for No. 25 NU (3-0) as the Cats take on a series of tougher teams.

“We really like challenging matches, and it’s just fun to be part of a tough schedule,” coach Claire Pollard said. “We’re hungry to go to indoors. We put a lot of emphasis on that at the start of the season.”

Last year, the Cats drew a similarly tough regional group, defeating Arizona State before losing 4-0 to then-No. 11 Oklahoma State — the host of the regional.

This year, NU has faced a more forgiving opening schedule after competing against ranked teams like TCU and Alabama in last year’s Wildcat Duals. Although the Wildcat Duals didn’t count towards the team’s season win total, it still gave the Cats a taste of more challenging competition than this year’s early slate of Akron, Chicago State and Harvard.

“We’ll need to be close to our best,” Pollard said. “It’s early in the season to be at that point, so we have to really get going quickly. It’s no different than it’s been every year, so we’re ready for that.”

NU has dropped just a single point in its first three matches, but its opponents this weekend have turned in similar performances.

Tulsa picked up every possible point against Oral Roberts and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and William & Mary beat Richmond 6-1 and Elon 7-0. Duke has yet to play a dual match, but has impressed nonetheless, earning the privilege of hosting the tournament.

“So far we’ve been working really hard, pushing ourselves individually and as group,” sophomore Rheeya Doshi said. “We just have to continue doing that during kick-off weekend. It’s going to be tougher because we’re playing better teams, so just being there for each other is going to be very important.”

The kick-off weekend is only the start of a tough upcoming schedule for the Cats.

Following the regional, NU will hit the road again, taking on No. 9 Vanderbilt during the first week of February.

If the Cats win their region this weekend, the team’s subsequent matches will come at the ITA Indoor National Championship at Yale in February.

“The level’s going to be a lot higher, so we’ll have to up our level as well,” Doshi said. “We’ve been doing a good job during practice, so we just have to keep it going and continue doing what we’ve been doing.

Email: josephwilkinson2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson