The IU women’s tennis team played its first two matches of Big Ten play and traveled to Hawaii to close out its nonconference slate over spring break.
The Hoosiers began the three-game stretch with a pair of matches at home against ranked opponents. IU played then-No. 31 Illinois and then-No. 13 Northwestern on March 8 and 9 at the IU Tennis Center.
Riding a winning streak, the Hoosiers played level with the ranked Illini to start with doubles. Senior Natalie Whalen and junior Caitlin Bernard picked up a 6-3 win at No. 2 doubles, but Illinois took both No. 1 and 3 doubles in tiebreakers to win the opening point.
The Hoosiers trailed 1-0 early but had the opportunity to make up for the lost doubles point with the singles matches. Freshman Somer Henry fell in straight sets at No. 6 singles, but IU was far from out of the match despite falling behind 2-0.
Minutes later, senior Madison Appel finished off a straight sets win of her own at No. 1 singles to cut IU’s deficit in half. As Bernard couldn’t close out No. 3 singles and went into to a third set, sophomore Michelle McKamey came back to force a third set at No. 5 singles. They each won their deciding sets to give IU a 3-2 lead.
Sophomore Jelly Bozovic lost 7-5 in a deciding set to bring the match to a 3-3 tie. It came down to Whalen at No. 2 singles. After narrowly taking the first set and barely dropping the second, Whalen persevered in the third to clinch the match for the Hoosiers.
The 4-3 victory, IU’s first against Illinois since 2008, extended its winning streak to four matches.
At 10:30 a.m. the next morning, the Hoosiers were faced with an even more challenging conference opponent. IU wrapped up its homestand by playing a top-15 Northwestern team. McKamey and Whalen won their singles matches, but Illinois took the doubles point and the match, 5-2.
The Hoosiers got four days off, but traveled to Hawaii during that time. IU met University of Hawaii on March 14 for its final nonconference match of the season.
With wins at No. 2 and 3 doubles, IU found itself up 1-0 early in a back-and-forth match. Hawaii struck back with straight set wins at No. 1 and 5 singles to take a 2-1 lead. Appel and McKamey combined for just 6 games won.
Bernard cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles, and then Whalen fended off her opponent with a 6-3, 7-5 win at No. 2 singles to give IU a 3-2 lead.
Bozovic’s 6-4 loss in her third set evened the match at 3-3, but Henry won it for the Hoosiers at No. 6 singles. After forcing a third set, the freshman brought it to 6-6 before winning the tiebreak 7-1.
The 4-3 win over the Rainbow Warriors brought the Hoosiers’ record to 11-6 overall. IU finished its nonconference schedule with 10 wins in 15 matches played. IU will play nine more conference matches before the Big Ten Tournament from April 25-28 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
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