Women’s Tennis: Northwestern set to face Vanderbilt in battle between top-25 opponents


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Caroline Pozo prepares to hit a backhand. The freshman and the Wildcats will be up against a tough challenge with No. 7 Vanderbilt this weekend.

Brett Haensel , Reporter

Women’s Tennis

In a battle of top-25 teams, Northwestern will look to get its third win over a ranked opponent this year when it hosts No. 7 Vanderbilt on Friday.

The No. 24 Wildcats (5-3) got back on track last weekend with wins against No. 22 Washington and Milwaukee, successfully ending a three-match losing streak. However, with its last victory coming over a winless Milwaukee team, NU now returns to its unrelenting schedule, as the Cats face their fifth ranked opponent of the season.

“(Last weekend) was a good performance for the girls,” coach Claire Pollard said. “It was validation for the hard work they’re putting in, but momentum is what you perceive it to be. We’ve got to come out every week and every match and play the best tennis we’ve got.”

The Commodores (6-1) are fresh off their first loss of the season, albeit to the No. 2 team in the country, Pepperdine. Having steamrolled its way through the first part of its schedule with a combined match score of 29-3 in its first six matches, Vanderbilt was humbled by the highly-ranked Waves in the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor Team Championships.

The loss came after the Commodores breezed through tough opponents in the opening rounds of the tournament, defeating both Wake Forest and Florida, ranked No. 21 and No. 3 at the time, respectively, by a combined score of 8-0.

“Everyone’s really excited,” senior Maddie Lipp said. “I hope that everyone on our team shows up for the match believing that we can do it, because we definitely can.”

To down Vanderbilt, NU will need to show more of the resiliency that it put forth against the Huskies last Saturday.

After dropping the doubles point and their first two singles matches, the Cats found themselves in a hole down 3-0, only to battle back and win the match 4-3. Freshman Inci Ogut was the hero, winning the deciding No. 5 singles match in a three-set thriller.

“I know there was pressure,” Ogut said. “When everyone came to my court, I realized I was the last one playing, but I just chose not to think about it. It’s a good start for the rest of the season.”

The Washington match was largely a departure from the norm for NU. It was the first time the Cats had lost the doubles point, let alone a doubles match, all year, yet they made up for it with a strong singles performance, something that had been noticeably lacking in their previous matches.

If NU is to beat the Commodores, it will likely need to do so by putting forth a balanced attack. In a match that looks to feature multiple top-60 doubles matchups, the Cats will once again rely on their elite doubles pairings.

Seniors Erin Larner and Lipp are coming off their first loss of the year but still boast the second-best doubles ranking in the nation. Likely facing No. 23 Fernanda Contreras and Astra Sharma, Larner and Lipp will need to play up to their ranking.

“It came down to a few execution errors early on,” Lipp said of last weekend’s doubles loss. “We didn’t put away a few balls and doubles is so short, so it’s not a huge deal to us. We just have to continue being really aggressive and playing first-strike tennis and hopefully our execution shows up against Vanderbilt because we need it to.”

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