Women’s Tennis: Northwestern gears up for tough tests at ITA Kickoff Weekend


Joanne Haner

Two Northwestern players high-five after a point. NU kicked off the 2022 spring campaign with a dominant performance against Wisconsin and Butler in the Wildcat Invite.

Alex Cervantes, Reporter

After falling to Vanderbilt in the season opener, Northwestern looks to turn the page this weekend at Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kickoff Weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Wildcats (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Commodores on Sunday. NU fell behind early, dropping the doubles point, but tied the match up at 2-2 following singles wins from graduate transfer Ema Lazic and first-year Sydney Pratt. However, the Cats dropped the final three single matches in the loss.  

With the season just getting underway, and nearly half the roster new to NU, finding an identity will take some time. 

“We had a lot of good performances across the board in singles and doubles,” Lazic said of the Cats’ performance at Vanderbilt. “Every match I think we’re just going to keep improving and getting better.”

NU will face a pair of tough tests over the weekend. On Saturday, the Cats will face Wake Forest (1-1, 0-0 ACC), who fell to then-No. 22 Tennessee 4-3 on Sunday before blasting Davidson 7-0 the day after. The Demon Deacons have three Top-75 singles players in the country, per ITA’s latest rankings. They also have two of the top 15 doubles pairings in the country in No. 2 Anna Brylin and Brooke Killingsworth, as well as No. 15 Samantha Martinelli and Casie Wooten.

Senior Clarissa Hand remains the lone ranked NU singles player at 94 in the ITA poll. She was first on the card for singles against Vanderbilt, dropping her match in straight sets. Junior duo Briana Crowley and Hand rank 58th in doubles and look to get back on track this weekend after their opening loss. 

The second matchday for the Cats will feature a matchup against either No. 8 North Carolina State or Penn State. The Wolfpack have a trio of Top 25 singles players in Jaeda Daniel (No. 8), Alana Smith (No. 24) and Abigail Rencheli (No. 25). Daniel and Smith also rank 21st as a doubles pairing. The Nittany Lions feature no players in either singles or doubles rankings, but have won their last two matches. 

The road ahead for NU is a challenging one, but the camaraderie of the squad — lauded by several players in the preseason — will remain key in getting results.

“It’s an exciting time,” Lazic said of the relationships within the team in her first year with the Cats. “I love all the girls on the team, and we have a close relationship. It’s been an amazing experience going through this with them. It’s an amazing group of people.”

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