Women’s Tennis: Cats get first ranked win, lose in second round of NCAA Tournament


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Juniors Maddie Lipp and Alex Chatt celebrate after winning a point. The doubles pair will head to Athens, Georgia for the NCAA Doubles Championship following the Cats’ elimination from the NCAA Tournament.

Sophie Mann , Digital Development and Recruitment Editor

Women’s Tennis

Going into the NCAA Tournament in Atlanta this weekend, Northwestern hadn’t recorded a win against a ranked team all season.

But the Wildcats left the Peach State with the ranked win they needed.

For NU (15-12, 9-2 Big Ten), this season was far from smooth sailing, as the team barely clawed its way out of the non-conference season unscathed, compiling losses to the nation’s best teams.

January looked promising for the Cats, featuring a four-game winning streak and a close loss against then-No. 10 Duke. But February demonstrated the talent the team would have to fight against for the rest of the year. With only two wins between Jan. 28 and March 22, the season looked bleak for the Cats. Although the team exhibited some success during conference play, back-to-back losses to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 10 Michigan brought NU back down to Earth.

Despite a less-than-stellar record, the teams that NU lost to posted respectable seasons. Michigan, Ohio State, Duke and Vanderbilt are all in the third round of the tournament and are all in the top-15 teams in the country.

“We just didn’t get many opportunities in that range,” coach Claire Pollard said. “I knew we would be a dangerous opponent for someone.”

And on Saturday, the team showed its dangerous side against No. 18 Mississippi State, a team in one of the best athletic conferences in the nation that boasts several top-25 wins on its resume. Even with the odds against the Cats, junior Erin Larner said the team never considered the disparity of the rankings.

NU’s 4-1 win began with the doubles point going to the Cats. Pairs comprised of Larner and sophomore Lee Or, and sophomore Rheeya Doshi and Jillian Rooney got the point early. Singles victories by junior Maddie Lipp, Larner and Or brought the win home for the team.

“We looked good in singles, got off to a good start,” Pollard said. “It’s hard to really enjoy it when you have to turn around so quickly and get ready for a really tough opponent.”

The team’s first ranked win not only came on the national stage, but against a team it never would have played otherwise. However, the excitement was short-lived.

The next day, the team was set to take on No. 8 Georgia Tech, which had swept NU earlier in the season. The Yellow Jackets (27-4, 13-1) took down the Wildcats 4-0 in absolute domination.

Pollard said Georgia Tech outplayed the Cats in all areas, just as they had earlier in the year.

“They clearly out-played us,” Pollard said. “We clearly just didn’t convert on critical points. They totally deserved to move on.”

The Cats were split in doubles with Doshi and Rooney taking one match, and Lipp and junior Alex Chatt losing the other. In the tiebreaker, however, No. 23 Rasheeda McAdoo and Johnnise Renaud took down Or and Larner 7-5, marking a disappointing end to heavily competitive play.

Once NU lost its momentum, it was gone for good. The Cats didn’t win a singles game during the Round of 32. Georgia Tech knocked off the Cats, giving NU a one-way ticket back to Evanston. The hard-fought weekend ended the careers of both Rooney and senior Brooke Rischbieth, who will graduate in June.

Despite the bittersweet end to the team’s season, Chatt and Lipp will continue on to represent the team next week at the NCAA Doubles Championship in Athens, Georgia. Though Rooney and Rischbieth are graduating, the team welcomes back five starters, three of whom are seniors. Pollard said things are looking good for the team in the future, as long as it continues to push throughout the summer.

“The future is bright,” Pollard said. “The work that we do and the way we go about doing things, we just can’t be denied next year, and that will be the theme and message I will use throughout the summer.”

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