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    'Cats Shoot For Seventh-Straight Big Ten Championship

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Claire Pollard and the 'Cats go for lucky number seven in a row this weekend in East Lansing, Mich.
    Claire Pollard and the 'Cats go for lucky number seven in a row this weekend in East Lansing, Mich.

    Big Ten Championship Notes in PDF Format
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    Big Ten Championship Bracket in PDF Format
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    April 26, 2005

    EVANSTON, Ill. - This Thursday, April 28 in East Lansing, Mich., the curtain goes up on the Big Ten Championship tournament show, featuring top-seeded Northwestern.

    Head coach Claire Pollard will direct the Wildcats in search of yet another encore as tournament champion. The `Cats have six-straight titles to their name -- one for each year Pollard has been head coach in Evanston (1999-present).

    Back in 1999, East Lansing, Mich. served as the stage for NU's first Big Ten Championship in Pollard's tenure. At the time, it was the Wildcats' first conference tournament title since 1986.

    This year's cast of characters have all the credentials of a champion: Northwestern posted a combined 53-7 conference singles record, in addition to hanging a big goose egg on Big Ten doubles opponents by going a perfect 30-0.

    Five Wildcats closed out undefeated conference singles records, as well. Freshman Audra Cohen (Plantation, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), junior Cristelle Grier (Epsom, England/Putney) and sophomore Alexis Prousis (Lake Forest, Ill./Lake Forest) are all 10-0, graduate student Valerie Vladea (Tiffin, Iowa/Burlington Central) is 9-0 and senior Andrea Yung (San Marino, Calif./San Marino) is 8-0.

    Northwestern veterans Kristi Roemer (Piedmont, Calif./Piedmont), Andrea Yung (San Marino, Calif./San Marino) and two-time All-American Grier will be charged with leading the `Cats through the Big Ten field. Seniors Roemer and Yung have the experience of three titles in three years, while Grier has earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors each of her two years donning the Purple and White.

    Despite the lofty credentials, Pollard and her team still know they have to go out and take care of business.

    "Earning the No. 1 seed is great, because it shows how great of a year we've had up to this point," Pollard said. "But we start a new season this Friday."

    Having received a first-round bye courtesy of its No. 1 seed, Northwestern will see its first action of the tournament at 9 a.m., Friday, April 29 in the quarterfinals against either No. 8 seed Penn State or No. 9 seed Ohio State.

    The `Cats defeated the Nittany Lions, 6-1, back on April 3 in University Park, Pa. NU just recently closed the regular season with a 7-0 sweep of Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.

    A win in the quarterfinals would set up a semifinal bout against either No. 4 seed Illinois or No. 5 seed Wisconsin. The Badgers were one of two squads to take the most points off the `Cats all year in conference play. Along with Michigan, Wisconsin notched a pair of singles wins to fall by a 5-2 count.

    Nationally Ranked `Cats as of April 26, 2005

    No. 5 Audra Cohen
    No. 19 Cristelle Grier
    No. 64 Alexis Prousis

    No. 1 Cohen and Grier
    No. 47 Kristi Roemer and Prousis

    Team Ranking
    No. 1 - Stanford - 109
    No. 2 - Florida - 95
    No. 3 - Kentucky - 89.9
    No. 4 - Georgia Tech - 88.57
    No. 5 - Northwestern - 86.19

    Perfect Matches... Doubles
    Northwestern has swept the doubles point 13 times this season and all 10 Big Ten matches: vs. DePaul (1/19), at Texas A&M (1/29), at Kentucky (1/30) and at Wisconsin (2/13), vs. Michigan (3/26), vs. Michigan State (3/27), at Indiana (4/1), at Penn State (4/3), vs. Iowa (4/9), vs. Minnesota (4/10), vs. Purdue (4/16), vs. Illinois (4/17) and at Ohio State (4/23).

    Perfect Matches... Singles
    Northwestern has swept all six singles matches six times this season and four times in the Big Ten: vs. DePaul (1/19), against New Mexico (2/4) at the ITA National Indoor Team Championship, vs. Iowa (4/9), vs. Minnesota (4/10), vs. Illinois (4/17) and at Ohio State (3/23).

    Chasing Recent History
    Cohen recorded her 41st victory of the season Sunday, April 17 vs. Illinois against, oddly enough, No. 41 Cynthia Goulet. The win broke Grier's single-season school record of 40 set in 2004. Cohen has only dropped 10 sets in 47 total matches this year.

    Numbers Game
    19 - consecutive Big Ten matches Northwestern has won, including last year's conference tournament. The Wildcats last conference loss came April 4, 2004 at Illinois, 4-3.
    4 - `Cats with at least 30 singles wins already this year. Cohen (42-5), Grier (36-6), Prousis (31-7) and Vladea (30-8).
    6 - Big Ten Titles Claire Pollard has won in six years as head coach.
    23 - Streak of wins by Audra Cohen in the fall to begin her college career, during which she claimed three singles titles.
    17 - Consecutive wins by Audra Cohen and Cristelle Grier (32-8 overall, 20-2 duals) -- the nation's top-ranked doubles duo.
    30-0 - NU's combined doubles record in Big Ten competition.