Daily file photo by Alison Albelda
After claiming its first win of the season on January 25, Northwestern returned to the Combe Tennis Center for its inaugural weekend of home matches. On Friday, the Wildcats struggled to maintain momentum and fell to No. 13 Vanderbilt 2-5 for the second time this season.
NU picked up its two points against the Commodores in singles; sophomore Clarissa Hand defeated Vanderbilt senior Emma Kurtz 6-1, 6-4 and junior Caroline Pozo beat Vanderbilt freshman Dasha Kourkina 6-2, 5-7, 1-0.
Despite the loss on Friday, the Cats seemed energized Saturday morning before facing No. 17 Princeton as Fall Out Boy blasted over the loudspeaker and NU slammed overheads to finish off its warm-up. However, the energy dwindled throughout the three-hour match as results increasingly favored the Tigers, and the Cats again lost 2-5.
Freshman Briana Crowley and sophomore Hannah McColgan won the first match of the day at two doubles, defeating Princeton senior Clare McKee and freshman Zoe Howard 6-2. However, NU ultimately lost its other two doubles matches, giving Princeton the lead heading into singles matchups. Senior Julie Byrne and Hand lost by a small margin of 4-6 at the one doubles spot, a disappointing loss for Byrne who said she underperformed.
“On points I usually play well on, I wasn’t executing, so I have to take the blame on that one,” Byrne said. “It’s such a quick set that if you don’t win those deuce points, it gets away from you.”
Despite a lackluster doubles performance, Byrne picked up one of two points for the Cats with her singles win. The senior defeated Princeton sophomore Brianna Shvets 6-3, 6-3 with a combination of deep baseline groundstrokes, angled slices and drop shots.
“My focus this year is the mentality of looking to come in. I’m an all-court player, but I’m good at the net, so I’m just always trying to be aggressive and come in,” Byrne said. “A lot of players like to play a very one dimensional way, so if I can put in some slices and hit some volleys, it gives me a better chance.”
Coach Claire Pollard said Byrne and McColgan, who also won her Saturday singles match, are two of the team’s more successful net players. Both players hail from across the pond — Ireland and England respectively — where tennis is played on different court surfaces more suited for net play. Pollard added that in today’s game the ability to play at net is increasingly difficult due to the speed of the ball.
Moreover, Crowley and Hand battled in their singles matches despite losing in the end. Crowley lost to Princeton junior Stephanie Schrage in three sets 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 3-6, while Hand fell to Howard 6-7 (6-8), 2-6. Both players grew visibly emotional and frustrated during their matches, which Pollard said may have hurt their on-court performances.
“Both of the two girls that were physically deteriorating as the match went on are two of the most vocal, so perhaps today it wasn’t as helpful as it sometimes is,” Pollard said. “But that’s who they are, and I never ask someone to not be themselves.”
After this weekend’s losses, NU’s record totals at 1-3. However, the Cats still have until the end of the month to make adjustments before the start of the Big Ten season.
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