Women’s Tennis: Cats begin spring season at Miami Spring Invite


Daily file photo by Brian Meng.

Lee Orr sets up for a volley. The senior and Northwestern performed well at the Miami Spring Invite this weekend.

Andy Marquardt, Reporter

Women’s Tennis

No. 19 Northwestern began its spring season this weekend in the Miami Spring Invite, facing off against No. 17 Miami, No. 2 Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

In their first event in over two months, the Wildcats impressed by taking nine of 12 matches in the tournament’s first day, and seven of 12 in day two. Though Sunday’s matches were cancelled due to rain, NU left the tournament with significant wins against worthy opponents and a great start to the season.

In day one of the Miami Spring Invite, the Cats had more success than anyone else in the tournament. NU took six of eight singles matches against the hosting Hurricanes and three of four doubles matches against the Commodores. Freshman Clarissa Hand — ranked No. 100 in the nation — had a standout performance in which she defeated seventh-ranked Estela Perez-Somarriba from Miami in consecutive sets.

Hand, originally from Moorestown, NJ, was a five-star recruit out of high school and is off to an impressive start to her collegiate career. Following this weekend’s performance, Hand said she is excited that both she and the team were able to begin the season on such a high note.

“That match (against Perez-Somarriba) started off pretty terribly,” Hand said. “But I think once I was able to calm down and really play my game, I was able to come out on top.”

The first day similarly featured a noteworthy performance from junior Julie Byrne, who completed a three-set comeback victory against No. 82 Daniella Roldan. The two would later secure victories against Vanderbilt in doubles play en route to an immensely productive first day of the tournament.

“We hadn’t played in five weeks before this match,” coach Claire Pollard said. “So I was going in with my eyes wide open, and I think our girls did an outstanding job.”

Day two of the tournament featured more solid performances from an NU team coming off its first Big Ten Championship since 2012. The Cats won five of eight singles matches against the Wildcats before splitting doubles matches with Miami, including another singles victory for Byrne.

Weather played a role over much of the weekend, as NU battled both the blistering Miami heat and frequent rain. While the conditions were less than ideal to start the season, Byrne said she was pleased by the team’s response.
“We adapted really well to the conditions (in Miami)” she said. “Obviously we play a lot of indoor tennis so going outdoors is always difficult, especially with the heat.”

On the third day, further inclement weather forced matches to be postponed or delayed. As a result, NU played unofficial exhibition matches, cancelling scheduled matches in singles against Vanderbilt and doubles against Kentucky.

Following a 2018 season in which the Cats secured their first Big Ten Championship in years, Pollard said she isn’t budging her expectations after seeing the season start.

“We just want to be the team that nobody wants to play against twice.” Pollard said. “We compete really hard, we present a tough opponent, and we embrace and enjoy the moment.”

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