Women’s Tennis: Northwestern splits close matches at ITA Regionals


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Maddie Lipp follows through a backhand. The junior’s tiebreak loss to Duke solidified the Wildcats’ loss Sunday.

Zach Koons, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

With a berth to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships on the line, the Wildcats were able to split a pair of closely contested matches this weekend, falling just short of securing their first trip to the championships since the 2014-15 season.

Northwestern (4-1) traveled to Durham, North Carolina for matches against two previously undefeated foes, Tulsa (5-1) and No. 10 Duke (3-0). The Cats entered the weekend having dropped just one point in three matches, but expected to face stiffer competition.

“Going into the weekend we knew it was going to be tough … and that we really needed to show up,” junior Erin Larner said. “Overall, the preparation was pretty similar, but everyone had a little bit more of a sense of urgency.”

The team began the weekend on Saturday against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane entered the match touting a similarly dominant 4-0 record.

NU began by dropping the doubles point and was forced to work from behind to overcome the early deficit.

“We try not to let the doubles point affect how we’re playing,” junior Maddie Lipp said. “It’s almost better if we start our singles matches thinking we’re down 0-1.”

Sophomore Rheeya Doshi provided the Cats’ first point early in singles play, picking up a relatively stress-free 6-2, 6-0 victory. NU then won two more matches, but Tulsa recovered and tied the score at three wins apiece.

The match came down to sophomore Lee Or, who was pushed to three sets by Tulsa’s Martina Okalova. Or dominated in the third set and grabbed the Wildcats’ fourth point with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win.

“Lee did a great job on Saturday,” coach Claire Pollard said. “Despite some close games she was really in control and she made some very difficult plays in some very critical moments.”

Following the 4-3 win against Tulsa, the team returned to the court Sunday, taking on Duke. The Cats once again found themselves locked in a 3-3 battle, awaiting the result of the last singles match.

Lipp found herself in that final match against Duke’s No. 14 Meible Chi. After losing the first set in a 13-11 tiebreak, Lipp fought back to grab the second set, but dropped another tiebreak in the third and lost the match 7-6 (13-11), 3-6, 7-6 (8-6).

“It’s definitely challenging every weekend, but I think I am mentally prepared,” Lipp said. “Obviously it wasn’t a great weekend for me, but I think I did draw some confidence from that match against Duke.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss against Duke, the team leaves the weekend optimistic.

Looking ahead, NU will face a second consecutive ranked opponent in No. 9 Vanderbilt on Friday. The Cats will also face Duke in a Sunday rematch.

“It’s a tough turnaround, but I think it’s exactly what we need,” Pollard said of the upcoming matches. “We can draw from (the loss) and look at the positives that came out of the weekend. I think there’s a lot of promise for a great year.”

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