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IU to play Tennessee on Sunday


Junior Madison Appel and freshman Michelle McKamey celebrate after winning a point during their doubles match against University of Cincinnati. IU improved to 3-0 on the season after their 4-2 win over UC. Sam House Buy Photos

A battle between the Big Ten and the SEC will take place Sunday in the IU Tennis Center.

IU will face-off against Tennessee, which is 6-0. The Volunteers received votes in the latest NCAA Top 25 rankings Tuesday.

Before Sunday’s matchup, both teams will play two matches Friday in the Midwest.

Tennessee travels to Cleveland, Ohio, to face Cleveland State, who has not won a match yet this season. Then, the Volunteers head 40 miles south to play at 4-3 Akron.

IU stays at home Friday, hosting Eastern Kentucky, 2-1, and Eastern Illinois, 2-5. Both teams the Hoosiers face are currently on two-game winning streaks.

Eastern Kentucky was in Bloomington last fall for the Hoosier Classic, where IU went 2-7 in singles and 4-1 in doubles against the Colonels.

Juniors Madison Appel and Natalie Whalen were the only two Hoosiers to win in singles.

IU Coach Ramiro Azcui said he thinks IU will see much better results this time because of the huge strides his team has made since facing Eastern Kentucky in September. 

“I like the way we are playing,” Azcui said. “I especially like how the bottom of the lineup is doing right now.”

As for Eastern Illinois, IU beat the Panthers 4-3 in their last meeting in 2016.

On paper, both IU and Tennessee are favored to win their Friday matches.

IU is focusing on preparation for each of its matches this weekend, but it is no secret that Sunday is on the forefront of the Hoosiers' mind. IU and Tennessee could potentially meet each other both 8-0.

Azcui said they don’t want to look ahead, but at the same time they are looking ahead.

While freshman Michelle McKamey has never faced Tennessee, she is familiar with the South. A native of Paducah, Kentuky, McKamey said the SEC aura was all around her, and she knows the competitiveness that conference brings. McKamey is also the only player in the lineup to compete in and win every singles match so far this season.

McKamey said she was unsure if she was even going to be a part of every match, let alone have the best singles record on the team at this point in the season. In two of her six victories, she has come back from behind to win two straight sets after dropping the first one. 

McKamey beat Butler freshman Emily Neal 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 and Xavier senior Elizabeth Bagerbaseh 2-6, 6-4, 7-6. 

McKamey is part of the aforementioned bottom of the lineup Azcui is pleased with. She credits those come-from-behind wins to working on her mental game throughout the fall and winter.

“A year ago, I think I would’ve lost some of those matches,” McKamey said. 

Azcui said he will play his strongest and healthiest lineup against Tennessee.

The most consistent doubles lineup for IU this season has been Appel and McKamey, sophomore Caitlin Bernard and freshman Jelly Bozovic and Whalen and freshman Olga Zavarotnaya.

The Hoosiers lost to the Volunteers in Knoxville last February, 5-0. However, the Hoosiers have won two of the last three meetings between the two.

“We have to believe it," Azcui said. "I need every player throughout the entire roster to believe we can do it."

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