Women’s Tennis: Northwestern falls to Michigan in Big Ten Tournament


(Daily file photo by Colin Boyle)

Lee Or watches the ball. The sophomore and the Wildcats fell in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Sophie Mann, Digital Development and Recruitment Editor

Women’s Tennis

After a winning rematch with Michigan State, Northwestern just missed its chance at the Big Ten Tournament final with a loss to No. 10 Michigan in the semifinal round Saturday.

The No. 3 seed Wildcats (14-11, 9-2 Big Ten) secured a first-round bye in the tournament because of their high seed, then awaited their second meeting with the Spartans in less than a week. NU had grabbed a narrow win Apr. 23 in Evanston, taking down the Spartans in a 4-3 battle that came down to the wire in both singles and doubles.

The Cats began the rematch strongly by securing the doubles point. The No. 60 duo of junior Maddie Lipp and sophomore Rheeya Doshi pushed past a higher ranked Michigan State pair, then sophomore Lee Or and junior Alex Chatt won the clinching set.

Coach Claire Pollard said that doubles play in particular allowed NU to begin the weekend on a high.

“I thought we played an excellent doubles point against them on Friday and got the weekend off to a good start,” Pollard said. “We were up three pretty easy. … We weren’t too fatigued going into the Michigan match.”

A weekend earlier, the Spartans gave the Cats a run for their money in singles play. Their postseason meeting proved different, however, as Michigan State was no match for NU. The Cats took three of the four finished matches, and none went to a deciding third set.

The win set up another rematch, this time with a Michigan team NU had played just eight days prior.

After dropping the doubles point against the Wolverines the previous week, the Cats again struggled from the outset. Lipp and Doshi had no response for No. 9 Kate Fahey and Alex Najarian at the No. 1 court, and junior Erin Larner and senior Brooke Rischbieth fell at No. 3.

Singles proved no better. Lipp played a strong first set against No. 24 Brienne Minor, but faded late and lost in straight sets. No. 79 Larner took a first-set lead on her opponent before stumbling to a three-set loss that clinched the match for Michigan.

“We just came short, and it was just unfortunate,” Or said. “We brought on the court whatever we had, so we can’t be sad about it.”

Without a signature win or a place in the Big Ten final, the Cats sit firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, a fate that will be decided on Tuesday. Pollard said that being a bubble team is bittersweet, although she is proud of what her team has accomplished.

During the first eleven years of her tenure at NU, the team won the Big Ten Tournament every year. With the expectations as high as they are for NU’s program, this finals drought is not what the team is used to, Pollard said.

“The truth is our goals are really high as a program; we’re not used to losing in the semifinals,” Pollard said. “Our goals are a Big Ten championship every year. We’re not that this year.”

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