2007 Big Ten Women's Tennis Championship Preview
April 25, 2007
Minnesota is set to host the 2007 edition of the Big Ten Women's Tennis Championship this weekend, Thursday, April 26 through Sunday, April 29. The postseason event will take place at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis, Minn., and feature all 11 Conference schools. Seven of those teams are ranked nationally, including the top-seeded and No. 5th-nationally ranked Wildcats from Northwestern, who will be vying for their ninth consecutive conference crown.
First year head coach Michelle Dasso and freshman No. 1 singles player Megan Fudge lead a 10th seeded Fighting Illini (5-16, 1-9) team into the weekend as Illinois opens its campaign on Thursday against seventh-seeded hosts Minnesota in the opening round. Fudge (8-10, 4-6) has been a stalwart at the No. 1 spot, pairing up with teammate Emily Wang at the No. 1 doubles spot to compile a 4-9 overall and 3-5 conference record.
The Iowa Hawkeyes earned the fourth seed in this year's Big Ten Championship by upsetting Purdue, 4-3, in their final regular season match. Their 11-9 record, including a 7-3 ledger against Big Ten opponents, is enough for the Hawkeyes to be ranked No.53 in the country. Individually, junior Jacqueline Lee sits at the top singles position with a 10-9 overall record and 6-3 conference mark. Lee is joined by Milica Veselinovic, a Player of the Week honoree (Feb. 14) and conference leading 15-3 No. 2 singles player. Merel Beelen has also had a successful spring playing at a perfect 12-0 in No. 6 singles and leads the team with eight conference wins. However, this weekend she will try her luck at the four spot for the first time this year.
The Hawkeyes will prepare to match up against the No. 5 seed Ohio State in Friday's second quarterfinal round. During the regular season, Iowa defeated Ohio State in a sound 7-0 victory.
For the second straight year Michigan takes the third seed headed into the championship with an 8-2 conference record. The Wolverines' top four players are littered atop the conference leader board beginning with two-time Athlete of the Week Chisako Sugiyama. Sugiyama rotated from first to second singles and has a personal record of 17-3 overall this spring, including a perfect 10-0 mark over Big Ten opponents. The sophomore will be at No. 1 singles this weekend followed by Jenny Kuehn. Kuehn is 9-1 in conference and 5-0 in the No. 2 spot this year. The duo is the No. 1 doubles pair for the Maize and Blue and is second in the Big Ten with a 10-2 mark. The tandem is followed by Kara Delicata and Tania Mahtani in the No. 2 doubles spot. At 10-1 overall and 9-0 in the Big Ten, Delicata and Mahtani top the No. 2 doubles board as well as individually. Delicata is 9-4 and Mahtani is 10-1 in No. 3 and No. 4 single spots, respectively.
Michigan meets up with the winner of the Purdue vs. Wisconsin match in Friday's quarterfinal showdown at 2 p.m. CT after earning a bye through the opening round.
The Spartans enter the tournament with a 12-11 overall record (2-8 Big Ten) and is in search of their first win at the event. Coming off a weekend split in which they defeated Wisconsin before falling to No. 7 Northwestern, the ninth-seeded Spartans face eighth-seeded Penn State in Thursday's first quarterfinal match at 9 a.m. CT. Leading the Spartan lineup is Christine Bader at No. 1 singles, Pascale Schnitzer at No. 2 and Stephanie Kebler at No. 3. Bader is 9-14 overall and 2-8 in the top spot, and Schnitzer owns a 12-10 record after splitting time at Nos. 1, 2, and 3 singles this season. Teammate Ana Milosavljevic has also stepped up in her sophomore campaign, holding the third best No. 5 singles record in conference at 8-3.
Minnesota has been lead throughout the regular season by senior Ashley Schellhas. The Edina, Minn., native has put up a third best 13-7 overall record at the top position in the Big Ten this spring, including a 7-3 mark against conference competitors. However, the Gopher on the hottest streak is Lindsay Risebrough (10-11, 6-4) who is on a five match winning stretch. Despite playing at four different spots this year, Risebrough will be at the No. 4 spot for Minnesota this weekend and will team up with Schellhas at No. 1 doubles.
As the No. 7 seed, the Gophers (11-10, 4-6) will open the championship against Illinois on Thursday afternoon.
Northwestern enters the weekend with the top seed after posting a perfect 10-0 Big Ten record. It was the seventh regular season title in nine years for the Wildcats, who have won the tournament each of the past eight seasons. NU consistently remained in the ITA's top-10 all season and are currently ranked 5th - its highest rank to date. The tandem of Georgia Rose and Samantha Murray have led a Wildcat team ranked 13th and 39th, respectively, as individuals. Rose has proven there is no such thing as a sophomore slump by compiling the best singles record of the year within the Big Ten with a 15-2 overall record. Murray has taken over the freshman phenom spotlight with a 14-8 overall and 7-3 conference record in her rookie campaign. However, there is no denying Northwestern's depth. Lauren Lui (No. 4 singles) and Nazlie Ghazal (No. 6 singles) hold a perfect record in conference with a team high 10 wins each. Senior Alexis Prousis has also had a strong season, going 12-8 and teaming up with Rose at No. 1 doubles to form the tenth-ranked duo in the country.
The Wildcats have earned a bye into second round action on Friday, when they will take on the winner of Penn State and Michigan State's first-round tilt.
No. 5 Ohio State (18-9, 6-4) travels to Minneapolis this weekend to challenge Iowa on Friday morning after both teams earned first round byes through the first round. The Buckeyes are lead by Ally Mueller, Christina Keesey and Caitlin O'Keefe, who each went 5-5 in Big Ten play. However, it is senior Sonia Ruzimovsky and No. 6 singles player Julie Voss who hold conference records over .500. Ruzimovsky was 6-3 in conference while Voss compiled a 6-2 record and stands second behind Rose in the Big Ten with a 17-3 overall record. O'Keefe along with partner Ruzimovsky lead the team in doubles wins with 18 while the tandem of Keesey and Angela DiPastina hold the best conference record on the team at 3-1 in No. 3 doubles.
Penn State is lead into this postseason by two seniors, compared to an absent senior class last year. Andreea Niculescu and Sasha Abraham are the Nittany Lions No. 1 and No. 2 singles players while Abraham teams up with Jenny Shular for the No. 1 doubles spot. The duo hold a perfect 5-0 record headed into the weekend. Niculescu has played No. 1 singles throughout the season and holds a respectable 5-13 record. Shular (No. 3), Dorothy Dohanics (No. 5) and Lauren McCarthy (No. 6) all lead the team with 6-4 conference records.
No. 8 Penn State is set to do battle with No. 9 Michigan State on Thursday morning to open the championship. The Lions met with Michigan State earlier in the season, and defeated the Gophers, 5-2. The winner of Thursday's match will advance to face Northwestern in the quarterfinal round.
The Boilermakers sit at No. 45 in the latest national rankings, and enter the Big Ten Championship as the sixth seed with a 12-8, 5-5 record. The team is led by sophomore Mallory Voelker (No. 97) and junior Brooke Beier. Voelker has been a mainstay at No. 1 singles all season going 13-7 in dual-matches this spring, while Beier has moved from No. 3 to No. 2 and boasts a combined record of 11-8. Junior Cigdem Duru adds a 10-1 record to the Boilermakers fifth singles spot, good enough to lead the Big Ten in that position, but will move up to the No. 4 slot this weekend.
It is the second straight year that senior Caitlin Burke has battled back from injury in time to lead Wisconsin into the postseason. Burke returned to the Badger lineup at the end of March and had no trouble picking up where she left off. That weekend against Purdue, Burke made quick work of Voelker at No. 1 singles, and along with partner Liz Carpenter tabbed Wisconsin's first doubles point of the conference season against then No. 33 Voelker/Beier. That match marked the start of a six-match winning streak for the duo that currently ranks No. 56 in the latest Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings. Their 9-1 mark and .900 winning percentage are the best in the Big Ten for No. 1 doubles. Despite going winless during the conference season Wisconsin has battled to 4-3 in the past five matches.
Last year, as the 11th seed, the Badgers advanced to the second round of quarterfinals, after knocking off No. 6 Michigan State before falling to eventual runner-up Michigan.