Women’s Tennis: Northwestern blitzes through Big Ten play, picks up two weekend road victories


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern women’s tennis players high five after a match.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Tennis

Northwestern kicked into high gear in the heart of conference play, rattling off seven victories in a nine-game span and securing an undefeated start in the Big Ten.

“We’ve had ups and downs (this season), but we’ve all been working really hard,” graduate student Ema Lazic said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve really started to get into our groove. We’ve really just been taking in our stride and getting better with each match.”

Before spring break, the Wildcats (11-5, 6-0 Big Ten) were headed south for a doubleheader against Kansas State and Kansas at the beginning of March. NU secured a 4-2 win against the Wildcats before falling 4-3 in a close affair to the Jayhawks.

After nearly two weeks off, the Cats faced a two-game homestand on March 19 and March 20. Then-No. 51 Wisconsin was on the docket first. In a close match, NU clawed back from a 3-2 deficit and clinched the win thanks to a three-set victory from sophomore Maria Shusharina at the No. 2 spot. Just a day later, the Cats hosted then-No. 48 Minnesota and secured another narrow 4-3 victory.

A midweek, 4-1 loss to then-No. 10 Duke on the road ended the Cats’ non-conference slate on a low note, but NU responded with two commanding 7-0 sweeps against Rutgers and Maryland.

The Cats followed up those impressive performances with a convincing 4-1 win over Nebraska on Friday and a 6-1 victory against Iowa on Sunday.

Junior Christina Hand attributed NU’s recent success to the team’s constant trust in one another.

“Obviously winning is the end goal every time we play a dual match, but (also) just competing hard, trying to represent Northwestern and making sure our foundation stays strong as a team,” Hand said.

The New Jersey native’s recent dominance on the court has been crucial to NU’s win streak. Hand has won six consecutive matches, five of which came in straight sets.

Hand credits her recent success to a conversation she had with former player Julie Byrne last season. In that talk, Hand said Byrne told her how important of a boost it was for the rest of the team to see her up early on the scoreboard in matches. This season, Hand said she made getting up quickly against opponents a main focus of her game.

“If I can dominantly put away a match as best as I can, then it helps (the team),” Hand said. “I know it’s going to help my teammates who see me winning to know that if I can secure a point, so can you. If I can do my job, you can focus on yours, keep your head down and do it.”

Hand and the Cats will look to continue their momentum against No. 8 Ohio State on Friday, as the winner snags sole first place atop the Big Ten standings.

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