April 28, 2012
Site: Columbus, Ohio (Varsity Tennis Center)
Score: No. 5 Purdue 4, No. 1 Northwestern 2
Records: NU (18-8, 10-1 Big Ten), PUR (17-6, 6-5 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: NCAA Tournament Selection Show - May 1, 4:30 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For the first time since 1998 a team other than the Northwestern Wildcats will be crowned champions of the annual Big Ten Women's Tennis Tournament. The 'Cats, champions of the regular season in 2012, were upset in the semifinal round by the fifth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers, 4-2, at the Varsity Tennis Center in Columbus, Ohio.
A familiar opponent was a recipe for disaster for the Wildcats Saturday. Northwestern edged the Boilermakers, 5-2, in Evanston, Ill. on April 20, but Purdue gave NU all it could handle that day as the 'Cats needed three third-set victories to earn the win. As fate would have it, Purdue did all that and more eight days later.
The Boilermakers got off to a good start in doubles play, particularly in the match at No. 1 between 74th-ranked Linda Abu Mushrefova and Veronica Corning of Northwestern and Purdue's Jennifer Rabot and Mara Schmidt. Rabot and Schmidt exploded onto the scene Saturday morning by winning the first five games to put the 'Cats in a sizable hole that they never completely dug out from.
The Wildcats won the next two games in that match to slice the deficit to 5-2, but Purdue countered with a two-game run of its own to seize its second five-point advantage. NU held serve to make it 7-3, but unfortunately the Boilermakers followed suit to notch the first win of the day, 8-3.
On courts two and three the battles were distinctly balanced. At No. 2, NU's undefeated duo of Nida Hamilton and Brittany Wowchuk went back-and-forth with Lynda Xepoleas and Daniele Vidal through the first fourteen games to knot the score at seven points each midway through the set. The Boilers held serve at seven-all to go up by one, putting the pressure on Northwestern do the same or surrender the match.
Purdue was able to break Wowchuk at the service line and survive the grueling battle, 9-7, to clinch the coveted doubles point. The loss was the first of the season in eight tries for the tandem.
Belinda Niu and Kate Turvy, Northwestern's third pair, were also engaged in a tight match against Purdue's Gisella Pere and Imogen Golder. The two teams went toe-to-toe through the first six games before the Boilers won two straight to take a 5-3 lead. Purdue went up by two again, 6-4, but the Widlcats recovered to tie it at six each. The match was abandoned at that point when the No. 2 match concluded.
Purdue was able to use the momentum gained in doubles play as the focus shifted to six singles matches. Pere and Schmidt each went up a set on Hamilton and Wowchuk, respectively, while Corning, playing No. 4 for NU, turned the tables on Vidal with a 6-2 victory in the premiere frame.
Rabot, one of only two players to knock off NU's Turvy in conference play, continued to play well against the top-ranked Wildcat with a 6-3 win in that first set.
Xepoleas, who knocked off Niu eight days ago in Evanston, Ill., outlasted Northwestern's All-Big Ten first teamer, 7-5, in the first set to turn up the pressure even more on the Wildcats.
Purdue's Pere collected the first singles win of the match when she finished off Hamilton in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.
Abu Mushrefova put the Wildcats in the win column for the first time Saturday when she rattled off a 6-4, 6-3 win against Golder. It was the sixth consecutive win in singles play for the junior and it could not have come at a more crucial time.
Wowchuk got all she could handle from Schmidt. After grabbing a 2-1 lead in the second set, the Boilermaker won three straight games to take a commanding 5-2 led before finishing off NU's No. 3 singles player, 6-3. Schmidt's victory gave Purdue a sizable 3-1 lead
Corning, who led the Wildcats with nine Big Ten wins during the regular season, kept hope alive when she hung on to win her match against Vidal, 6-2, 7-6 (3). The transfer from Boston College led 5-2, but Vidal claimed four straight games to grab her first lead of the match. Corning remained undaunted and rebounded to pull her team within one at 3-2.
The showdown on court number one between Turvy and Rabot was shaping up to be an instant classic. Rabot looked as though she was going to cruise to triumph when she went up 5-1 in the second set, but Turvy, a unanimous All-Big Ten first team selection, dug in and found the will to grind out four consecutive winners to knot the set at five.
Unfortunately, the run to even things up took too much gas out of Turvy's tank and Rabot was able to win the final two games that were necessary to win the match for Purdue.
Niu has split sets with Xepoleas and the third frame was tied at two games apiece when the match was abandoned.
The Wildcats will now wait to find out their NCAA Tournament fate on Tuesday, May 1 when the field is announced at 4 p.m. Central time on NCAA.com. Individuals will be announced on May 2 by 5 p.m.
1. Jennifer Rabot/Mara Schmidt (PUR) def. No. 72 Veronica Corning/Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) - 8-3
2. Lynda Xepoleas/Daniele Vidal (PUR) def. Nida Hamilton/Brittant Wowchuk (NU) - 9-7
3. Belinda Niu/Kate Turvy (NU) vs. Gisella Pere/Imogen Golder (PUR) - 6-6 (unfinished)
Order of finish: 1, 2*
1. Jennifer Rabot (PUR) def. No. 19 Kate Turvy (NU) - 6-3, 7-5
2. Belinda Niu (NU) vs. Lynda Xepoleas (PUR) - 5-7, 6-2, 2-2 (unfinished)
3. Mara Schmidt (PUR) def. No. 66 Brittany Wowchuk (NU) - 6-3, 6-3
4. Veronica Corning (NU) def. Daniele Vidal (PUR) - 6-2, 7-6 (3)
5. Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) def. Imogen Golder (PUR) - 6-4, 6-3
6. Gisella Pere (PUR) def. Nida Hamilton (NU) - 6-1, 6-2
Order of finish: 6, 5, 3, 4, 1*
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