Women’s Tennis: Wildcats look to bounce back with weekend homestand
February 15, 2017
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Last time it took the court, Northwestern suffered a narrow defeat to then-No. 10 Duke, a third straight loss after dropping a match at then-No. 9 Vanderbilt earlier that weekend. Now, the Wildcats are looking to turn things around.
Losses on the road against two of the top 15 teams in the ITA rankings weren’t too disappointing for No. 23 NU (4-3), however, and this week’s schedule figures to ease slightly as Baylor (5-0) and Illinois (3-5) visit Evanston on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
But while neither team is ranked, the Cats are not taking their upcoming opponents lightly.
“Baylor and Illinois are both very good,” coach Claire Pollard said. “The gap between 10 and 30 or 40 (in the rankings) is not very big. … I expect us to be pushed to the limit in both matches.”
The Bears received votes in the most recent poll after continuing their undefeated start to the young season with a win over Rice, which also received votes from the ITA.
The Fighting Illini, however, have already dropped five matches, two of which came against teams in the top 15. Baylor and Illinois each played matches last weekend, while the Cats had a brief respite after failing to qualify for the ITA National Indoor Championships.
“The girls have had a really good week and a half, and I think the time off has been really beneficial for them,” junior Maddie Lipp said. “Both Illinois and Baylor are really tough teams, but we definitely have a good chance.”
NU came into the season with a strong outlook, but senior Jillian Rooney’s injury has challenged the team’s depth. So far, the Cats have not been able to overcome that challenge.
Rooney and sophomore Rheeya Doshi began the 2017 campaign as the No. 23 doubles team in the nation, and the senior held down the No. 5 singles spot for much of last year’s campaign, posting a 7-8 record.
The team’s newly shuffled doubles lineups picked up the doubles point in both matches against Duke, but the team dropped the point for only the second time this year in the 5-2 loss to Vanderbilt.
Junior Alex Chatt has posted an impressive 5-0 record at the No. 5 spot this season, but freshman Nina van Oost and senior Brooke Rischbieth combined for an 0-3 record in singles in the matchups against Duke and Vanderbilt. The Cats fell to Duke 4-3 on both occasions.
Home court advantage could help NU overcome these recent shortcomings this weekend — the Cats are 3-0 at home and 1-3 on the road. Nonetheless, this will be the first weekend they play stronger opponents in Evanston.
The undefeated Bears and the battle-tested Illini will likely provide a tougher test than Kent State, Chicago State and Harvard did earlier in the season.
Rooney said the team is happy to begin the homestand and eager to see some new competition.
“It’s really nice to be home after some tough matches away,” Rooney said. “We’re really excited and ready to go.”