May 1, 2011
Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Varsity Tennis Center)
Score: No. 19 Northwestern 4, No. 10 Michigan 3
Records: NU (20-7, 9-1 Big Ten), Michigan (22-4, 10-0 Big Ten)
TV Coverage: Big Ten Network tape delay (Saturday, May 7 - 10 a.m. CT)
Next NU Event: NCAA Tournament Selection Show Tuesday, May 3 4 p.m. CT
Big Ten Tournament Final -- Photo Gallery
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Northwestern's Claire Pollard arrived in Ann Arbor this weekend having won 12 consecutive Big Ten Tournaments as head coach of the 'Cats, but the manner in which her team claimed No. 13 was unlike any that had come before. Second-seeded NU came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to knock off top-seeded and host Michigan, 4-3, Sunday at U-M's Varsity Tennis Center.
After Michigan edged Northwestern in the doubles point and claimed wins at No. 3 and 5 singles, the Wildcats ratcheted up their defense of 12 consecutive tournament titles. Sophomores Linda Abu Mushrefova
and Kate Turvy
each closed out two-set singles wins and senior Maria Mosolova
rallied past seventh-ranked Denise Muresan to pull NU even at three.
Belinda Niu then imposed her will on her third set against Big Ten Freshman of the Year and 74th-ranked Brooke Bolender, avenging her loss to the Wolverine last week by besting Bolender, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
It marked the second time this season NU has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a dual, having also turned the trick against Notre Dame on April 7.
"A few weeks ago, we were down 3-0 to Notre Dame at home, with our backs against the wall," Pollard said. "We were able to come back from that, so I think having that experience helped us today, we just never stopped believing we could win. Also Belinda was key. She's been in a few big moments for us and I think that paid dividends for us. It's a tremendous team effort for us."
Niu's clinching victory set off a frenzied celebration for the 'Cats (20-7), who on Tuesday will learn where their NCAA Tournament journey begins when the field is announced at 4 p.m. CT.
With the two teams so evenly matched, the doubles point maintained a quick and very competitive pace at all three positions. The first match finished for the day was a big one for Northwestern as Elena Chernyakova and Brittany Wowchuk earned their 13th win as a team this year, downing Michigan's Sam Critser and Mimi Nguyen, 8-6. The 'Cat tandem won the last two games, with Chernyakova sending winners down the line in both.
NU's No. 2 team of Mosolova and Niu found themselves down 3-1 to start their match, but regained control and eventually took the lead at 5-4, highlighted by an ace by Niu to win their fourth game. But the two lost their grip, letting go of the final four games to Whitney Taney and Rika Tatsuno in falling, 8-5.
At No. 1, Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton found themselves up on Michigan's Denise Muresan and Brook Bolender, 5-3, but the ninth-ranked Wolverine duo rallied to win 9-7 and hand Michigan the first team point.
That hole deepened as Michigan's 100th-ranked Whitney Taney downed Wowchuk, 6-0, 6-0, and Rika Tatsuno put the hosts on the verge of winning by knocking off Stacey Lee, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 5.
But as the sun shone through the clouds and the temperature rose, something sparked for the 'Cats. Playing her strongest singles tennis of the tournament at No. 6 was Abu Mushrefova, who hit the right shots against 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Mimi Nguyen, and never lost control of the lead. Abu Mushrefova pulled out a 6-3, 6-1 win, the first of the day for NU.
Next off the courts was Turvy, who earned her third victory in the Big Ten Tournament. The 75th-ranked Turvy never let up after claiming the first set, 6-3, and posted a duplicate score in the second to pull Northwestern to within one with both remaining matches headed to a third set.
In a wild No. 1 match between two former Big Ten Players of the Year, Mosolova came soaring back against No. 7 Denise Muresan after falling in the first set. Mosolova won the second, 6-3, and cruised in the third, 6-1, winning the final point when Muresan drew her second racket-throwing violation of the match.
Mosolova is now 20-2 in dual match play entering the NCAA Tournament.
It all came down to the two first-years, Niu and Bolender. The Wolverine grabbed the first set with relative ease, 6-1, but Niu fought through some tough shots to eventually take a hard-fought 6-4 second set. With all eyes focused on the tournament-deciding third, the score was tied at two when Niu held serve then notched a critical break to seize a 4-2 advantage. Seeing that Mosolova had won her match, Niu did not relent and won on her second match point when a Bolender shot fell outside the lines, giving Northwestern its 13th-straight Big Ten Tournament championship.
Sunday marked the first time since 2006 that NU surrendered a point to its tournament final opponent. Only once before in its run of 13 straight titles, in 2000 against Minnesota, had Northwestern won by a 4-3 score.
Look for complete information on Northwestern's postseason journey when the NCAA Tournament field is announced Tuesday.
2011 Big Ten Tournament Final
No. 19 Northwestern 4, No. 10 Michigan 3
No. 1 -- No. 13 Maria Mosolova (NU) d. No. 7 Denise Muresan (UM), 2-6, 6-3, 6-1
No. 2 -- No. 75 Belinda Niu (NU) d. No. 74 Brooke Bolender (UM), 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
No. 3 -- No. 100 Whitney Taney (UM) d. No. 78 Brittany Wowchuk (NU), 6-0, 6-0
No. 4 -- Kate Turvy (NU) d. No. 66 Sam Critser (UM), 6-3, 6-3
No. 5 -- Rika Tatsuno (UM) d. Stacey Lee (NU), 6-1, 6-3
No. 6 -- Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) d. Mimi Nguyen (UM), 6-3, 6-1
No. 1 -- No. 9 Denise Muresan/Brooke Bolender (UM) d. No. 11 Belinda Niu/Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU), 9-7
No. 2 -- No. 65 Whitney Taney/Rika Tatsuno (UM) d. Maria Mosolova/Belinda Niu (NU), 8-5
No. 3 -- Brittany Wowchuk/Elena Cherynakova (NU) d. Sam Critser/Mimi Nguyen (UM), 8-6
Order of Finish:
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