Women’s Tennis: Northwestern puts five-match win streak on the line against No. 5 Georgia Tech, Purdue


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Erin Larner smacks a serve. The senior, last week’s Big Ten Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week, will look to lead Northwestern to another win over a ranked opponent Friday.

Brett Haensel, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

After surging up the polls for the second-straight week, Northwestern will look to carry its momentum into yet another clash against a top-10 opponent.

Riding a five-match winning streak that has featured wins over three ranked opponents, the No. 8 Wildcats (8-3, 2-0 Big Ten) will host both No. 5 Georgia Tech (9-1) and Purdue (6-5) over the weekend.

“Everyone’s feeling really good,” senior Maddie Lipp said. “We’re focused on Georgia Tech. We’ve had success because we take one match at a time, so we’ll go into the weekend and say, ‘I want to go 1-0,’ and then we’ll reset.”

The Yellow Jackets mark the third opponent in the last four matches that NU has faced that has been ranked within the top 10. After taking down No. 7 Vanderbilt and No. 5 Illinois in back-to-back matches, the Cats will yet again be tested with the nation’s best.

Georgia Tech’s lone loss came in early February to now-No. 2 Pepperdine, and since it has knocked off four opponents currently ranked in the top 25.

“It’s another great challenge for us,” coach Claire Pollard said. “They’re an excellent team. They knocked us out at the NCAAs last year, so we’re excited to have them here. We’re going to have to play great.”

The top-10 battle will feature a contest between two of the nation’s top doubles pairs. The No. 1 pair of NU seniors Erin Larner and Lipp will likely take on the Yellow Jackets’ fourth-ranked pair of Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones.

With two additional doubles pairs ranked in the top 60 and five singles players ranked within the top 120, Friday afternoon’s match will feature some of the top talent in the country.

“Maddie and I have been doing pretty well, so hopefully we can keep that rolling,” Larner said. “Doubles can be quick, so we need a good, strong start. Serving well is key in doubles, and across the board we need good energy.”

The Cats will return to Big Ten play just a day later when the Boilermakers come to Evanston for their first conference match of the year. In addition to starting its Big Ten season on the right foot, Purdue will look to secure its first win over a top-25 opponent this year.

After falling to both No. 23 Ole Miss and No. 15 Kansas, the Boilermakers will be hoping to catch NU off guard.

Indeed, the task will be a tough one for Purdue given the Cats’ star-studded cast. Larner recently received honors as Big Ten Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week after picking up two wins at both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles as part of NU’s undefeated start to Big Ten play.

“It’s a cool award, great thing,” Larner said. “The team being top 10 is just so much cooler. Hopefully we can keep it rolling this week.”

After a rocky 3-3 start that saw the Cats drop three in a row at one point, NU was able to right the ship and find its groove.

“We learned how to win,” Pollard said. “We were playing well but didn’t quite know how to close out things. You learn from losing, and at least if you learn from losing it can be a real positive thing.”

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