Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Women’s Tennis: Northwestern falls in nail-biter NCAA tournament first round matchup

+Graduate+student+Britnay+Lau+and+senior+Maria+Shusharina+celebrate+after+winning+a+point.+They+won+their+match+on+Friday+6-4.
Daily file photo by Henry Frieman
Graduate student Britnay Lau and senior Maria Shusharina celebrate after winning a point. They won their match on Friday 6-4.

Northwestern traveled to Malibu to compete in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships at Pepperdine.

Opening tournament play against Arizona State with a match that lasted more than three hours, the Wildcats (19-8, 9-2 Big Ten) fell 4-3 to the Sun Devils (15-9, 6-4 PAC-12).

The doubles point has been a key point of NU’s success all season, and Friday afternoon’s tilt was no different, as the ’Cats nabbed the doubles point in three closely contested matches.

NU’s No. 1 doubles mainstays, graduate student Christina Hand and senior Justine Leong, took on the country’s No. 31 doubles team of Chelsea Fontenel and Patricija Spaka. Hand and Leong lost 6-3.

The loss put the ’Cats in the same situation as their Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to Ohio State. To win the doubles point, they needed to win both of the remaining matches.

Minutes later, the No. 2 pairing of junior Sydney Pratt and freshman Neena Feldman won 6-4. At 5-4, 40-40, the Sun Devils double-faulted, giving NU the victory. 

The doubles point came down to No. 3 duo graduate student Britany Lau and senior Maria Shusharina — who had a 17-1 record on the season entering the match.

At 4-4, 40-40, Lau hit a volley to put the ’Cats up a break and serve for the doubles point. In the ensuing game, Shusharina set up a match point with a volley of her own, and on match point, Arizona State hit the ball out of bounds on a poor lob, giving Lau and Shusharina the 6-4 win and NU a 1-0 lead.

After Monday’s selection show watch party, coach Claire Pollard alluded to the ’Cats’ inability to figure out singles play against Ohio State, as the Buckeyes swept NU in singles play twice this season. 

While the ’Cats did not get swept by Arizona State, they only won two singles matches, short of the necessary three to win.

NU won just two of the six first sets, needing to come back in one of them in order to get out of this match victorious. No. 1 Shusharina, a unanimous member of the All-Big Ten Team, and No. 6 Lau won their first sets 6-4 and 6-2, respectively. No. 2 Leong had led 3-0 in the opening set but ultimately lost it 7-5 by double faulting on set point.

The ’Cats began to find some momentum at the start of second sets. Leong and No. 4 Pratt found themselves up early breaks, and No. 3 Hand quickly found herself at a 5-1 lead in the second set.

Soon after, Shusharina and Lau guaranteed their victories, giving NU a 3-0 lead. Shusharina won 6-4, 6-4, against the nation’s No. 79 player Giulia Morlet, while Lau won 6-2, 6-4. 

The ’Cats just needed to win one of the remaining four matches to win the match.

Momentum shifted back toward the Sun Devils after these victories, however. Despite Leong and Pratt both having a break advantage in their second sets, Leong lost 7-5, 6-4, while Pratt fell 6-2, 7-5.

Fighting back from a 3-1 deficit in the second set, No. 5 junior Kiley Rabjohns found herself in a tiebreak against Sara Svetac. In a close contest, Rabjohns lost, securing a 6-3, 7-6(6), win for Svetac. This evened the match at 3-3, leaving the fate of NU’s season in Hand’s hands on Court 3.

Against her opponent Marianna Argyrokastriti, Hand found herself up 5-4 in the final set after a backhand winner down the line winner during her service game. Then, she put the pressure on Argyrokastriti by getting to 5-4, 40-40 with a match point but hit it out.

With the match then evened at 5-5, Hand notched multiple winners to take a 6-5 lead in the set. Ahead 40-30 in the game, Hand had two more match points but converted neither, sending the match to a tiebreak with a bid to the tournament’s second round on the line. 

Hand seemingly ran out of gas, as she lost the tiebreak 7-1. The final scoreline read 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(1) in Argyrokastriti’s favor, effectively ending the season for the ’Cats.

With an older team and multiple players having played their last match as a Wildcat, NU will return to action in the fall with a brand new lineup.

Email: [email protected]

X: @CharlieSpungin

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