After finishing the regular season over .500 in conference play for the first time since 2015, IU is set as the No. 7 seed in the 2019 Big Ten Women’s Tennis Tournament, playing No. 10-seeded Iowa at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Sid and Hazel Dillon Tennis Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Hoosiers closed out their regular season with two more wins at the IU Tennis Center to finish 16-10 overall and 6-5 in the Big Ten.
IU’s first round matchup is against a team it lost to 4-3 on the road March 31. The Hawkeyes trailed early as the Hoosiers captured the doubles point when senior Madison Appel and sophomore Jelly Bozovic completed a comeback at No. 1 doubles.
Bozovic and senior Natalie Whalen won their singles matches to tie the match at 3-3 after a trio of straight sets wins from Iowa. The final court remaining was No. 6 singles, where two Michelles were deciding the match in a heated third set.
IU sophomore Michelle McKamey took the first set 6-0, but Iowa sophomore Michelle Bacalla fought for a 7-5 second-set win. McKamey found herself playing from behind early in the third set and Bacalla eventually pulled away, 6-3, as Iowa clinched the team match.
IU Head Coach Ramiro Azcui was quick to notice some differences in what will be his team’s second matchup against Iowa this season. The Hawkeye lineup has changed since they defeated the Hoosiers, and this match probably won’t be indoors.
“We will have different matchups at all three doubles positions and four of the six singles matches when we play them this week,” Azcui said. “In addition, we’re now playing at a neutral site and likely playing outdoors. All of these factors will make it a completely different match.”
Although IU is the No. 7 seed and is playing without a bye, Azcui is optimistic about his team’s opportunity to win a few matches in the tournament and help its chances for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.
“We’re going to give each match everything we’ve got, and we’ll see what happens,” Azcui said. “The Big Ten tournament this year is as wide open as it has been in many years, and if we make a run, we will get a shot at some teams that will boost our ranking and put us in a position for post-season play.”
Should IU beat Iowa to advance to the quarterfinals, it would get No. 2-seeded Wisconsin. The Badgers went 17-4 overall and 9-2 in conference play this season, but they haven't played the Hoosiers since April 14, 2017. IU won that match in Madison, Wisconsin, 6-1 to pick up its 6th win in its last 7 tries against Wisconsin. The Badgers were in the midst of six consecutive losing seasons then but are now ranked No. 40 in the country.
If IU makes a run to the semifinals of the tournament, it could await a potential rematch with No. 3-seed Illinois. The Hoosiers beat the then-No. 31 Fighting Illini 4-3 on March 8, breaking a nine-match losing streak to the conference foe. Illinois is back up to a No. 30 national ranking and would love a revenge matchup with IU in the semis.
IU is looking for its first win in the Big Ten tournament since 2017, when it edged out No. 7-seed Iowa 4-2 at 3 p.m. on the opening Thursday of the tournament. The Hoosier can draw comparisons all they want, but they’d rather just take it all match at a time.
“Iowa is rock solid at every position and they will compete hard,” Azcui said. “I expect this to be another tight match, and we are really excited to get another shot at them.”
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