Women’s Tennis: No. 39 Northwestern falls in narrow rivalry match to No. 47 Illinois


Daily file photo by Charlotte Che

Graduate student Ema Lazic prepares to serve the ball. Lazic was unable to rally in a three-set singles loss during No. 39 Northwestern’s 4-3 defeat to No. 47 Illinois on Sunday.

Daniel He and Alex Cervantes

Women’s Tennis

No. 39 Northwestern suffered a close upset loss to in-state rival No. 47 Illinois on Sunday, fighting hard to a bitter 3-4 end. The Wildcats came into the matchup against the Fighting Illini on a hot streak after winning four of their last five matches.

As per usual, NU (12-7, 7-2 Big Ten) dominated the doubles point, winning two of the three matches in quick fashion. 

At No. 1, the pairing of senior Clarissa Hand and sophomore Maria Shusharina cruised to a 6-2 victory. The No. 3 duo of juniors Christina Hand and Briana Crowley jumped out to a 5-0 advantage before Illinois clawed back — a common theme throughout the day — to tie up the match. The pair were able to close out the game though, winning 7-5. 

As the focus shifted to singles play, matches started off smoothly for the Cats. Junior Justine Leong secured a decisive one-sided win at No. 6, allowing just one game against the Fighting Illini’s Emily Casati and claiming an early 2-0 lead for NU. 

Despite the initial deficit, Illinois quickly surged back into the fight. 

At No. 1, Clarissa Hand fell in straight sets 2-6, 5-7 to the Fighting Illini’s top seed Kate Duong. Shusharina wasn’t any luckier, losing 4-6, 5-7 against Ashley Yeah, as Illinois quickly tied the score at 2-2. 

A glimmer of hope came when freshman Sydney Pratt swept through two sets to defeat Josie Frazier, restoring the Cats’ advantage. Now up 3-2, NU was squarely in the driver’s seat, in need of one more singles win to snag a victory in Champaign. But unfortunately for the Cats, success ended with Pratt.

Christina Hand dropped the opener 4-6 before recovering to push the match to a decisive third set. But the Fighting Illini’s Kasia Treiber was dominant, winning 6-1 to even up the score 3-3. 

Graduate student Ema Lazic, NU’s last stand, was ultimately unable to convert the decider, losing in a narrow three-set affair at No. 4. With the final result, Illinois secured the upset win over the Cats in the pair’s lone regular season meeting. 

Bragging rights now in hand, the Fighting Illini also leapfrogged NU in the Big Ten standings following the victory. 

The Cats’ attention now turns towards a weekend doubleheader in the Great Lakes State. NU will face Michigan State in its penultimate matchup on Saturday, before its regular season finale against No. 23 Michigan on Sunday. 

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