Women’s Tennis: Wildcats seek statement win in weekend homestand


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Maddie Lipp lunges for a volley. The junior and the Wildcats are seeking to extend their unbeaten start to Big Ten play.

Sophie Mann, Digital Development and Recruitment Editor

Women’s Tennis

Northwestern’s Big Ten perfection will be put to the test this weekend as it takes on Penn State and No. 4 Ohio State.

The Wildcats (11-8, 7-0 Big Ten) have taken the conference season by storm, breezing past more than half of the conference. Three of NU’s conference matches have been sweeps and many others have been similarly without drama.

The Cats have won six straight and are in a three-way tie for the Big Ten lead, but this weekend’s tests pose a particularly steep challenge.

The Buckeyes (21-2, 7-0) sport the No. 1 women’s singles player in the country, Francesca Di Lorenzo. The sophomore is a three-time ITA national champion on a team that bolsters a lineup featuring four seniors.

Coach Claire Pollard said although Ohio State does not presently hold the No. 1 team ranking, the Buckeyes are nonetheless a force to be reckoned with.

“You have to use whatever … you have at your disposal,” Pollard said. “Ohio State is as good as anyone in the country.”

Ohio State may have the edge in singles, but the Cats doubles duo comprised of juniors Maddie Lipp and Alex Chatt ranks No. 15 in the nation, with Ohio State’s highest ranked doubles pair at No. 26.

This leg up may just be the confidence the Cats need. Junior Erin Larner said the high level at which NU has played throughout the season will help the Cats this weekend.

“We’ve played a lot of top-10 teams and we’ve been right there with them,” Larner said. “So we have to take the confidence going into the match.”

Pollard said although the Nittany Lions (5-12, 2-5) may not have as strong of a record as the Cats, every match is important, and her team cannot slack Friday.

“Every match is big and some are bigger than others,” Pollard said. “We can’t look past Penn State.”

If NU can overtake the Buckeyes, it will not only be at the top of the conference, it will be in even better position when it takes on No. 9 Michigan next weekend, the only other Big Ten team in the top 25.

Because the Cats were near the top of the country a decade ago — winning nine straight Big Ten titles at one point — Pollard said she knows how Ohio State feels now. Sunday’s match offers NU a chance to knock the Buckeyes down a notch and give the Cats a signature win that never came in a challenging non-conference slate.

“You want to be at your best every single match,” Pollard said. “We know what it’s like to be the hunted and the favorite … It’s a golden opportunity.”

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