Women’s Tennis: No. 3 seeded NU heads to Big Ten Tournament, set to play Spartans again


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Alex Chatt (right) celebrates with doubles partner Maddie Lipp. The juniors and the Wildcats open the Big Ten Tournament with a rematch against Michigan State.

Sophie Mann, Digital Development and Recruitment Editor

Women’s Tennis

After a win on Senior Day following two consecutive losses, Northwestern heads to Urbana to compete in the Big Ten Tournament, which begins Thursday.

The Wildcats (13-10, 9-2 Big Ten) will open their slate Friday against Michigan State (17-7, 7-4) in a rematch of a contest just last weekend. No. 3 seed NU snuck out a 4-3 win Sunday in Evanston, but will have to prepare for another tough test against the Spartans.

Even with the added day of rest and a feel for Michigan State’s playing style, coach Claire Pollard said her team can’t look past the Spartans to other opponents. After a close match the first time around, Pollard said she isn’t concerned about potential future matches.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Pollard said. “We would love another crack at Michigan (in the semifinals), but there’s no point looking ahead at them because Michigan State’s a great team and we’re going to have to be at our best again on Friday.”

Even with such strong conference play, NU is still missing a signature win. The Cats failed to take down a ranked opponent in non-conference play and couldn’t overcome either ranked opponents they faced in Big Ten play.

The non-conference slate offered NU several opportunities to grab that top win. Early in the season, NU dropped a close 4-3 decision to then-No. 10 Duke. A similar fate then followed the Cats as NU matched up with then-No. 9 Vanderbilt and Duke, again, resulting in two more NU losses.

That poor stretch continued throughout the rest of the non-conference season. Between the beginning of January and the start of the conference season at the end of March, the Cats lost eight of 13 matches and were mired in two separate four-game losing streaks.

This may come back to bite the team if it advances in the tournament and has to face No. 2 seed Michigan again, whom NU lost to Friday in Ann Arbor. Michigan, along with No. 1 seed Ohio State, is still perfect in the Big Ten and also received a first-round bye.

Still, the Cats seem unconcerned.

“We played all the teams, so I feel like we have a good gauge on everything,” sophomore Rheeya Doshi said. “We know what we have to do: just keep fighting and play hard every single time and treat each match equally.”

Should they beat the Spartans, however, the Cats would likely face more challenging opponents.

The Buckeyes’ Francesca Di Lorenzo remains the No. 1 player in the country, and two Michigan players are in the Top 25, as well. Junior Erin Larner, meanwhile, is the only ranked singles player for the Cats, at No. 79.

Even with the pressure the tournament brings, senior Brooke Rischbieth said she is excited to play in her last Big Ten Tournament, and that NU is holding nothing back this weekend. Rischbieth, whose career will be coming to a close when the season ends, was a freshman when NU last won the tournament in 2014.

“We definitely go in with a hungry mentality,” Rischbieth said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We’re going out there and giving it our best shot and seeing how we do.”

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