March 7, 2014
#8 Northwestern (7-3) vs. #36 Illinois (6-4)
Saturday, March 8, 2014 12 p.m.
Atkins Tennis Center
EVANSTON, Ill. - The Northwestern women's tennis team looks to remain undefeated in conference play when it travels to Urbana to take on in-state rival Illinois on Saturday. The match is scheduled to begin at noon and will be played at the Atkins Tennis Center.
The Wildcats needed a last-match win from Belinda Niu to survive against an upset-minded Purdue team last weekend. With the team match tied at three, Niu scrapped against Daniela Vidal at No. 2, prevailing 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-3 to claim the 4-3 win for Northwestern. Veronica Corning and Alicia Barnett won handily in straight sets at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively. NU claimed the doubles point as well, moving to 7-0 in 2014 when doing so.
Northwestern has benefited from strong senior leadership, especially at the top of the singles lineup. Niu has been the most consistent player for the `Cats with a 7-0 mark in the dual season and an 11-match winning streak. Corning has played the entire 2014 season in the No. 1 spot, posting a 6-4 record. Five of her wins have come against ranked opponents. Nida Hamilton has held down the back end of the lineup with a 4-0 record split between spots No. 5 and No. 6.
Four singles players are ranked in the latest ITA poll for NU. Niu is 37th and Corning is 49th. Maddie Lipp (No. 97) and Jillian Rooney (No. 110) round out the rankings. Northwestern also has two ranked doubles tandems. Corning and Barnett are No. 30, while Lipp and Hamilton come in at No. 44.
Illinois has amassed a 6-4 record in 2014. The Fighting Illini most recently competed at the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala. There, the team went 2-1 with wins over Yale and Oklahoma State. The lone loss came to highly-ranked Alabama. Illinois climbed as high as 27th in the ITA team rankings on Feb. 25 before falling to its current spot at No. 36.
The Illini have no nationally ranked players. Melissa Kopinski has played much of the season at No. 1, putting together a 4-5 record overall and a 3-3 mark in the first spot. Allison Falkin is 4-3 in 2014 and 3-1 in the No. 2 singles position. Playing at No. 3, Alexis Casati is 6-1 and 8-1 overall in dual matches. Kopinski and Casati team up to play in the No. 1 doubles spot and have put together a 6-3 record.
Northwestern leads the all-time series against Illinois 46-8. The Wildcats have won 12 straight matches over the Illini, including the past nine regular season meetings. Last season, in Evanston, NU took down Illinois 5-2.
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