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Women's tennis to play Miami University and Western Kentucky

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Junior Natalie Whalen shakes hands with her opponent after her 6-4, 7-6 win over Western Michigan University. The team’s match against WMU was their first of two played on Jan. 20 at the IU Tennis Center. Sam House Buy Photos

The Hoosiers have two matches remaining before Big Ten play starts.

IU is playing in its sixth and final doubleheader of the regular season Saturday. The Hoosiers will face the Miami University RedHawks before playing the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. 

In 2017, IU lost to Miami 4-3 in Bloomington. The RedHawks picked up wins against IU’s No.1-No.4 singles spots. 

Junior Madison Appel, IU’s No.1 singles player, did not compete in last year’s match.

IU Coach Ramiro Azcui said IU is going with its strongest lineup this weekend.

“We are trying to get revenge on all the teams we lost to last year,” Azcui said. “At the same time, we are focused on improving and getting ready for Big Ten play. We want to use the healthiest lineup we have and go full force this weekend.”

Miami, 5-6, lost to Cincinnati and Xavier, two teams IU beat on the same day earlier this season. However, the Miami earned a 4-1 victory against Western Kentucky, the second team IU faces Saturday.

IU took down Western Kentucky 4-2 last year. Junior Caitlin Bernard and sophomore Pauline Jahren earned two of IU’s points in last season’s victory.

Azcui said Saturday’s doubleheader will be another opportunity for his unit to keep getting better.

“Miami and Western Kentucky are two very good teams,” Azcui said. “Playing them both back to back will be tough for us because our girls will be tired, but strong performances this weekend will give us momentum going into the conference portion of our schedule.”

IU has a 10-3 record against non-conference opponents, with its three losses coming against then-No.17 Tennessee, Notre Dame and then-No. 25 Princeton.

Azcui said he has seen improvement from all 10 IU players in his lineup since the start of the season.

“We watch film after every competition, and each player knows specifically what she has to work on,” Azcui said. “We also emphasize what we have been doing well so we can continue to use those areas as strengths.”

Depth is one of those strengths for the IU team, particularly from the freshman who have been making solid contributions.

Last weekend, freshman Olga Zavarotnaya went 2-0 in singles against Cornell and No. 25 Princeton. 

Zavarotnaya saw limited action in singles this season due to an injury she suffered in November, but she said she is now back to full strength.

“Both girls I faced last weekend were tough competitors,” Zavarotnaya said. “Those were not easy matches, and I’m glad I did well.”

Although she did not expect to be utilized this much as a freshman, Zavarotnaya said the transition to college tennis is going smoothly for not only her, but also freshmen Jelly Bozovic and Michelle McKamey.

“We are bringing a lot of positive energy,” Zavarotnaya said. “We are motivated to improve so we can help the team win.”

Azcui said his nonconference opponents have allowed his team to see the type of level it expects to face in the Big Ten Conference. He said it is hard not to get excited about playing good teams like Miami and Western Kentucky in the same day.

“Now that we are almost in the thick of things, this team is playing well, and I’m excited about that,” Azcui said. 

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