It will take a lot for the IU women’s tennis team to be on the outside looking in at the 2019 Big Ten Women’s Tennis Tournament. The Hoosiers, 14-10 overall and 4-5 in conference play, stand at seventh in the conference standings heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Should IU remain in the top 10 after its final home matches against Rutgers and Maryland this Saturday and Sunday, it will be in the conference tournament yet again. What’s really on the team’s mind is performing well enough to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013.
“First we need to focus on getting to the Big Ten Tournament,” sophomore Michelle McKamey said. “We’ll take it one match at a time this weekend. The Big Ten standings have had a lot of up and down with some unexpected wins and losses so we’ll see what happens.”
IU will be celebrating Senior Day and wrapping up its regular season with home matches against the Big Ten’s lowest teams in the standings. The Hoosiers can clinch a spot in the conference tournament with a win over the Scarlet Knights or Terrapins this weekend.
Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Rutgers and Maryland are a combined 1-5 against IU. A year ago Saturday, the Terrapins were able to beat out the Hoosiers 4-3 at The Tennis Center at College Park in College Park, Maryland.
This season, Rutgers is 9-10 overall to Maryland’s 3-16, but both teams are just 1-8 against conference opponents.
“Any team at the bottom of the conference standings is dangerous,” IU Head Coach Ramiro Azcui said. “They can come out swinging, they have nothing to lose and they’re not attending the Big Ten Tournament, so for them this is it. We can’t play with caution, we have to go and win the matches and play at the level we know.”
With it being the final two home matches of the season comes Senior Day. Following Sunday’s match against Maryland, the team will celebrate the four-year careers of seniors Madison Appel and Natalie Whalen, who have led the way for IU at No. 1 and 2 singles and doubles, respectively, this season.
“They have really taken ownership of this team,” Azcui said. “They’re leading the team in wins, they’re leading the team by example. It’s neat to see how much they have accomplished and grown as people.”
For McKamey, she said she's fortunate she was able to have Appel and Whalen by her side for two years as she adjusted to IU.
“They made our transition to college so much more comfortable than it should have been,” McKamey said. “Having two older people accept you and be there for anything you need or any question, they were super helpful and never turned us away or made it seem like we were bothering them.”
The sophomore said their leadership would be greatly missed after this season, but she’s confident in her ability to take after Appel and Whalen as an upperclassman of the program.
“I want to use their example, as we’ll have at least two freshman coming in next year, to try to make them feel as comfortable as they made us feel,” McKamey said.
IU will play Rutgers and Maryland at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, respectively, at the IU Tennis Center.