Serving to Win
April 23, 2008
by Jeff Smith
Often times as fans, we want the ball in the hands of our team's star when the game is on the line. In football, when the team is trailing with two minutes remaining, you are eager to watch your quarterback march the team down the field. In basketball, with seconds left and down by two, you can't wait to see how your clutch shooter gets open on the perimeter for the game-winner. In tennis, when it's tied 5-5 in the third set, Illinois' Kristina Minor responds in the same fashion. She wants the ball.
Now, in tennis terms, that means she would rather serve than receive, which on several occasions as meant the ballgame for her opponent. Fighting Illini head coach Michelle Dasso believes Minor has one of the best serves in all of college tennis.
"She's just a very strong girl and a feisty competitor who wants to win bad," said Dasso.
Minor and the Illini recently concluded the regular season and are preparing this week for the Big Ten Championships, which begins on Thursday and is hosted by Purdue. At 11-9 overall and 7-3 in conference play, Illinois earned the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye. The Illini will face No. 5 Ohio State (19-6, 6-4) at 10 a.m. on Friday.
Minor helped paced the Illinois squad as a sophomore year, totaling a 17-10 singles record while playing a combination of the No. 4-5-6 positions. She paired with five partners this year in doubles for a 9-11 record and has built a 31-29 mark in singles and is 23-29 in doubles over her two years in Champaign.
For Minor, the improvement between her freshman and sophomore seasons for both the team and herself was a major one.
"It's definitely been a huge improvement from last year, we are really stoked about that," she said. "Last year we didn't even get past the first round of the Big Ten Championships and this year we have a bye."
And while Minor feels she was able to make an impact as a freshman, she notes that last season was marred by an ankle injury she suffered and illness that spread throughout the team late in the year.
"It's impossible to win a dual match when you only have 4