Jan. 12, 2011
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- Ranked No. 9 in the preseason Campbell's/ITA College Tennis poll, Northwestern opens its 2011 season at home this weekend when it hosts the Wildcat Spring Invitational. The field is composed of players from DePaul, Illinois-Chicago and Florida International and the event is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday in NU's Combe Tennis Center.
Fans attending Friday's afternoon action are advised to seek out street parking off Sheridan Road due to parking restrictions in the lot in front of NU's Sports Pavailion and Aquatic Center (SPAC). Parking restrictions are lifted for the weekend beginning at 4 p.m. Friday.
Wildcat Invitational -- Weekend Schedule
Friday, Jan. 14
12:30 p.m.: Florida International vs. UIC (singles)
3:30 p.m.: All teams in doubles (two rounds)
6:30 p.m.: Northwestern vs. DePaul (singles)
Saturday, Jan. 15
9 a.m.: Northwestern vs. Florida International (doubles)
10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Northwestern vs. Florida International (singles)
2:45 p.m.: UIC vs. DePaul (doubles)
4 p.m.: UIC vs. DePaul (singles)
Sunday, Jan. 16
8 a.m.: All teams in doubles
9 a.m.-Noon: All teams in singles
There is no live scoring for this weekend's matches. Results for all teams will be posted on NUsports.com at the conclusion of play each day.
Entering her 13th season at the helm in Evanston, Claire Pollard returns four singles starters from a team that finished ranked No. 7 nationally in 2010 and with a 23-7 dual record. Pollard's squads have claimed 12 consecutive Big Ten Tournament championships but are looking to regain the league title after Michigan snapped NU's streak of 11 in a row last season.
Along with Northwestern, the eighth-ranked Wolverines and No. 25 Illinois round out the Big Ten's representation in the top-25 rankings.
Northwestern once again faces a nationally competitive nonconference schedule that both precedes and coincides with its 2011 Big Ten Conference dual slate. Included among NU's list of nonconference opponents are the following ranked teams: No. 3 Baylor, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 7 Duke, No. 16 Georgia Tech, No. 17 Texas and season-opening dual foe No. 26 Vanderbilt.
The following is a class-by-class breakdown of the Wildcats entering their home tournament to kick off the spring this weekend:
For the fourth consecutive season, Northwestern's No. 1 spot in the singles lineup will be occupied in 2011 by Maria Mosolova, who as NU's lone senior begins her final season with the Wildcats with a career singles record of 115-32 with a 62-16 dual mark. Coming off her third straight season of reaching All-American singles status, Mosolova again earned a trip to the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship last fall and was 1-1 at the event. She also makes significant contributions in doubles play for the 'Cats, having played at No. 2 doubles each of the last two years and qualifying for the national doubles tournament in 2009.
Northwestern's pair of hard-hitting juniors, Stacey Lee and Elena Chernyakova, have each found themselves in a number of big spots during ITA National Indoors, Big Ten Tournaments and NCAA Championships matches over the last two years and have benefited from that experience. Lee was 27-10 overall in singles with a stellar 19-5 ledger in dual matches in 2010 and figures to make regular contributions there again as a junior.
Chernyakova has primarily made her mark in doubles where she qualified for her first NCAA Championships last season and was ranked as high as No. 24 playing alongside Lauren Lui. Coming into the year with a career doubles record of 45-15, Chernyakova will likely pair with Mosolova at the No. 2 doubles spot in NU's dual lineup. Her dual-clinching singles victory in the late stages of Northwestern's dramatic 4-3 semifinal win over Florida at the National Indoor Team Championship last spring also showed that Chernyakova can handle the spotlight on her own just as well.
If Northwestern is able to make a deep run into the NCAA Championships at Stanford this spring, it will likely be because the trio of Linda Abu Mushrefova, Kate Turvy and Brittany Wowchuk were able to win matches in big spots. Abu Mushrefova gave the Wildcats a late-season boost in 2010, admirably filling the No. 5 singles position and winning four of her five dual matches there, including a tournament-clinching three-setter against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. Abu Mushrefova also answered the call in doubles, moving up to the No. 1 spot to gain experience in the position where she will likely find herself again in 2011 after winning an ITA Midwest Regional Doubles crown with partner Nida Hamilton. That tandem was tabbed No. 30 in the preseason Campbell's/ITA College Tennis doubles rankings.
Turvy, ranked No. 120 in singles to start the season, returns after a freshman season spent holding on to the No. 4 singles spot where she was 12-6 in dual matches. The native of Dublin, Ohio, who was 7-3 during the 2010 fall season, has continually displayed a resiliency on the court that proves to be contagious among her teammates.
She will likely be joined in the starting singles lineup this year by Wowchuk who was also 7-3 last fall and was playing well at the Midwest Regional Championships only to be ousted in the quarterfinals by Turvy. Wowchuk, however, was able to claim quality wins against opponents from Notre Dame, Michigan and North Carolina, among others, and opens her sophomore campaign ranked No. 66 nationally in singles.
As she has for the last 13 years, Claire Pollard continued her tradition of laying a solid foundation for future teams with her incoming freshmen class in 2010. The new-look 'Cats each had successful fall seasons, highlighted by local product Nida Hamilton's run to the Midwest Regionals crown with Abu Mushrefova as they became the fifth NU duo ever to accomplish that feat.
Belinda Niu, meanwhile, won seven singles matches last fall and ended Northwestern's fall campaign on a high note, advancing to the finals of the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, defeating two Michigan Wolverines along the way. Niu's performance earned her a No. 76 debut singles ranking to start her freshman season.
NU's third impressive freshman is California native Natalie Edell, who will be looking to make contributions in both singles and doubles after a fall season that included wins at both the Furman Invitational and Wildcat Invitational.
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