For the fourth time in the last five years, the IU women’s tennis team’s season ended in its opening match of the Big Ten tournament. The Hoosiers have just one team win at the event since 2015, which is a big part of why they’ve been kept out of the NCAA Tournament for the last six seasons.
IU traveled to the Sid and Hazel Dillon Tennis Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the 2019 Big Ten Women’s Tennis Tournament, where it met No. 10-seed Iowa in the first round at 3 p.m. Thursday. The Hoosiers were favored as the No. 7-seed, but the Hawkeyes were victorious March 31 in their regular season matchup.
Senior Madison Appel and sophomore Jelly Bozovic raced to a 6-3 win at No. 1 doubles fresh off their new No. 69 national ranking from the Oracle/ITA Division I Women’s Rankings for doubles pairings. The win made Appel the first Hoosier since 2006 to reach 100 career doubles wins.
As Appel and Bozovic got off the court, No. 2 and 3 doubles were tied up at 6-6, both heading into seven-point tiebreakers. Iowa won 7-5 and 7-4, respectively, to take the first lead of the match.
Appel got swept 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 singles,and the Hawkeyes went up 2-0. IU responded with wins at No. 2 and 4 singles from senior Natalie Whalen and sophomore Jelly Bozovic, respectively, but it was too little, too late.
The No. 3, 5 and 6 singles matches began third sets as Whalen tied the match at 2-2. Junior Caitlin Bernard fell at No. 3 singles, and sophomore Michelle McKamey could not keep the match alive as No. 5. Iowa moved onto the second round as IU’s season came to an end.
IU, 16-11 overall, will be left out of the NCAA Tournament as a team, but there’s still hope it can send individuals to the NCAA tournament for singles or doubles play.
The Hoosiers showed no progression in terms of postseason success, but their first winning season in Big Ten play since 2015 represents hope for the program’s future. Appel and Whalen’s leadership will be missed, but a new era of IU women’s tennis is about to set in.
Bernard, part of the same recruiting class as Appel and Whalen, will finish what her and her ex-teammates started. The team will also lean on Bozovic, McKamey and junior Anna McCoy for leadership as IU welcomes at least two incoming freshmen. IU Head Coach Ramiro Azcui will be without Appel and Whalen for the first time in his coaching stint, but the future of the program is starting to take shape.
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