IU women's tennis heads to the east coast to face Cornell and No. 25 Princeton, and it will be familiar territory for junior Madison Appel and sophomore Caitlin Bernard.
Both players are from the northeast. Appel is a Locust Valley, New York, native, and Bernard calls Belchertown, Massachusetts, home.
IU Coach Ramiro Azcui said part of the reason he scheduled these matches specifically was because he wanted to bring two of his players close to their families.
“I want our program to be like a family,” Azcui said. “I always encourage parents to come and be part of our family. For us to be able to play near their home environment is neat for our team. It is special and a way to bring the game to the parents who are far away from their daughters.”
Another reason Azcui scheduled Cornell and Princeton is for the high level of competition with two solid Ivy League programs.
Cornell and Princeton agreed to host IU at their respective facilities this year, and next season IU will host the two teams in Bloomington.
“Ivy’s are always so strong because of their ability to recruit,” Azcui said. “Everybody wants to go to an Ivy, and they consistently get great players.”
IU squares off with Cornell on Friday in Ithaca, New York. Then, the Hoosiers will travel to New Jersey where they will face the Princeton Tigers on Sunday.
Cornell, 5-4, is on a two-game win streak. Its most recent win is over a Big Ten team in Rutgers 5-2.
Princeton, 7-1, also takes on Rutgers the game before playing IU.
The Tigers picked up a win over No. 12 Auburn earlier this month. Princeton and IU have both played Xavier this season. IU defeated Xavier 6-1, and Princeton won 7-0.
The Tigers are at home and better on paper, but Azcui said his team likes being the underdog.
“We love having that label under our belt,” Azcui said. “We are starting to realize that we can compete with anybody, and we have an opportunity to defeat a good Princeton team.”
IU’s doubles have been a consistent strength, winning 10 of 11 doubles points, including against Tennessee and Notre Dame. Cincinnati is the only team that has beaten IU in doubles.
Bernard and freshman Jelly Bozovic are undefeated in doubles, holding a 7-0 record. The tandem of Bernard and Bozovic communicate well and their strengths complement each other.
Bozovic plays the net aggressively and Bernard stays back, setting up Bozovic with a good shot at the net.
“We have extraordinary chemistry on the court,” Bozovic said. “We know exactly what the other is going to do. We are like twins on the court.”
Azcui said opponents start to pick up on their strategy of a strong net presence, but Bernard and Bozovic understand and execute their roles at such a high level that the opponents have a hard time stopping them.
While Bozovic is undefeated in doubles, she has dropped her last two singles matches to Tennessee and Notre Dame.
Both of her losses have been close, and she pushed her match against Notre Dame to the third set.
Bozovic said that she is focused on finishing the matches and the things she can control.
“I need to keep playing my game,” Bozovic said. “If I focus on other things, I start getting nervous and my level of play goes down.”
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