The Big Ten women's tennis teams invade East Lansing, Michigan from April 28-May 1 in hopes of win away the conference championship from Northwestern, who has held the title for the last six years. The conference boasts seven nationally-ranked teams, including the defending Big Ten Champion Wildcats, who sit at No. 5 in the regular season's final rankings. The championship's top three seeds receive byes into the quarterfinals and face the winners of first round match-ups. The fourth and fifth seeds face off in the second round. In last year's championship final, top-seeded Northwestern defeated six seed Ohio State, 4-0.
The strength of the Illinois (12-10, 6-4) attack has been at the front of both the singles and doubles lineups this season. Senior Cynthya Goulet has led the way posting a 28-6 record (.824) at first singles, including an impressive 9-1 (.900) record against Big Ten opponents. In addition Goulet has earned a 25-10 (.714) mark in doubles, primarily at the first position partnered with sophomore Emily Wang. At second singles, freshman Macall Harkins has been consistent with a 19-15 record (.559). She has also fared well at second doubles with junior Brianna Knue. The pair has posted a 14-4 record at the second spot. The third singles position has also been productive for the Illini. Freshman Momei Qu has earned a 20-14 (.588) mark during her first campaign in Champaign-Urbana.
The fourth seeded Illinois Fighting Illini will open up championship play with No. 5 seed Wisconsin. During the regular season, the Illini eked out a 4-3 victory. The Illini holds a victory over No. 61 Colorado this season.
Indiana (14-10, 8-2) enters the championship hoping to improve upon its record 13 Big Ten championships, and in doing so, end Northwestern's run at the top. The 34th ranked Hoosiers have won seven of their last 10 outings and earned the second seed in the Big Ten Championship. The Cream and Crimson excel because of the depth of their lineup. The second, third, and sixth singles positions have been an excellent source of scoring for Indiana, going 48-23 (.676) on the season. In the second spot, Sarah Batty, the nation's 100th ranked singles player, has posted a record of 19-9. Combined with her 14-11 record at first doubles, Batty will be relied upon heavily if the Hoosiers hope to oust Northwestern. At third singles sophomore Laura McGaffigan, one of three sisters to play on three separate Big Ten tennis teams, has posted a season singles record of 25-11 (.694) and at sixth, sophomore Cecile Perton has gone 23-10 for a winning percentage of .697, the best on the team. The team's first singles player, senior Dora Vastag and Perton lead the way at third doubles with a record of 14-7 (.666). Batty and senior Dominika Walterova occupy the first doubles position with a 9-5 record (.643).
IU will face the winner of No. 7 Michigan and No. 10 Michigan State's match on Friday. The Hoosiers defeated both during the regular season's final weekend, U-M 4-3 and MSU 6-1. The team's best out-of- conference victory came over No. 27 Wake Forest.
On the strength of a 7-3 conference record, the 50th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes (13-8, 7-3) have earned the Big Ten Championship's third seed. Led by first singles sophomore Meg Racette, the Hawks have no upperclassmen on their roster, which features four sophomores and two freshmen. At 28-6 (.824) freshman Milica Veselinovic has been very productive at third singles, as has sophomore Anastasia Zhukova at third singles. Zhukova's 22-9 (.710) singles record is only part of her first year success. Paired with classmate Hilary Tyler, the duo has gone 15-2 (.882) at second doubles for Iowa on the season. Freshman Jacqueline Lee has split time at the fifth and sixth singles positions recording a 15-7 (.682) record in the process.
The Hawkeyes hold an impressive 7-0 conference victory over No. 2 Indiana, their potential semifinal opponent. Iowa will meet the winner of No. 6 Purdue and No. 11 Minnesota in the championship's quarterfinals. The Hawks fell to Purdue, 5-2, on the regular season's final day and defeated Minnesota, 5-2, to open the conference calendar.
The No. 40 Michigan Wolverines (11-10, 6-4) head into rival territory in East Lansing looking to defeat the Spartans for the second time this season. The first-round match-up pits the seventh-seeded Wolverines against the 10th seeded Spartans. In March, the Wolverines cruised to a 6-1 victory in Ann Arbor, but this time MSU will have the home-court advantage.
Throughout the 2004-2005 season, the first doubles pair of senior Michelle DaCosta and sophomore Kara Delicata has been a constant point of production. With a season record of 21-9 (.700), the pair has fared even better in Big Ten action, going 8-2 (.800) in conference. DaCosta has amassed a 15-15 (.500) record at first singles, and Delicata has an 11-15 (.423) mark this year primarily in the third spot. Sophomore Elizabeth Exon has done well at second singles, earning a 17-15 (.531) record, but the fifth and sixth spots have been the most reliable for the Wolverines this year. Juniors Debra Streifler and Nina Yaftali have split time at the final two singles spots, with nearly equally effective results. Streifler has gone 18-11 (.621) this year and Yaftali 21-11 (.656).
The host Michigan State Spartans (11-11, 1-9) are looking for a measure of revenge over their in-state rival Michigan. If MSU moves past first-round opponent Michigan, the squad will face second-seeded Indiana in the quarterfinals.
Much of the Spartan production has come from the back-end. Sophomore Sarah Andrews, who has split time at fifth and sixth singles, has put together a 26-13 (.667) record on the year, and is the only member of the MSU team to have a winning record in conference play this year. Classmate Jessica Baron has also shown well in her second season. With a mark of 13-9 (.542), Baron has seen most of her time in the fifth singles position. Senior Keri Thompson occupies the first singles spot for Michigan State going 10-14 (.417) on the year. In the doubles matches, Thompson and freshman Christine Bader finished the regular season with a 10-9 (.526) record in the first doubles position. Andrews and junior Shelley Brady have anchored the second doubles spot with a mark of 6-2 (.750) in that role this year.
The 11th seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-14, 1-9) will match-up with Purdue for the second time this year in the Big Ten Championship's opening round. The winner will advance to meet third-seeded Iowa in the quarterfinals.
Junior Nischela Reddy has led the Maroon and Gold from the first position all year, finishing the regular season with an overall record of 16-15 (.516). As the only athlete to compete in that position, she has posted an 11-9 mark in the first singles spot. After seeing time in the third and fourth spots, sophomore Lindsay Risebrough has settled into the fifth singles position and has won all three of her matches there to carry her season mark to 9-10 (.474). Reddy and sophomore Ida Malmberg occupy the Gophers' top doubles spot. This year the pair has combined for a 6-5 mark in the top position.
When the top-seeded Northwestern Wildcats (21-2, 10-0) step off the bus in East Lansing, they will be returning to the courts on which the current Purple and White dynasty began. It was in 1999 that Northwestern won its first of six-consecutive Big Ten championships; a streak head coach Claire Pollard would like to continue. The fifth ranked `Cats have been led all season by freshman Audra Cohen. In her first year, she has posted a 42-5 (.894) singles record, good enough to set the Northwestern single-season wins mark. In addition, Cohen has teamed with junior Cristelle Grier to post a 32-2 (.941) doubles record. The team paired to win the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Indoor Championships. Grier has also had a stellar year, posting a 35-6 (.854) single's record. Also extremely valuable for Northwestern will be Valerie Vladea (30-8, .789) and Jamie Peisel (31-7, .816).
The Wildcats will await the winner of the No. 8 Penn State and No. 9 Ohio State first round match-up. Northwestern defeated the Nittany Lions, 6-1, earlier in the month, and Ohio State 7-0 in the regular season's final match. In addition to sweeping through the Big Ten conference slate, the Wildcats hold victories over No. 3 Kentucky, No. 16 Duke, No. 19 Harvard, No. 22 California, No. 24 Notre Dame, and No. 33 Texas A&M.
The ninth seed in this year's Big Ten Championship, the Ohio State Buckeyes (7-18, 2-8) will face-off with Penn State in the opening round, with the right to tangle with top-seeded Northwestern going to the winner.
Sophomore Sonia Ruzimovsky has been the most productive Buckeye of the season accumulating a record of 22-13 (.629), bouncing between the second through sixth singles positions. Senior Meredith Vincent has been a doubles specialist for the Scarlet and Gray this year. With four different partners, Vincent has gone 16-15 (.516) in doubles action during her final year at OSU. She has earned nine of her wins this season when paired with classmate Emily DeCamilla. In her freshman season in Columbus, Caitlin O'Keefe has posted a 5-5 (.500) mark in Big Ten competition, having seen action in all but the first singles position.
The eighth seed in the 2005 Big Ten Championship, the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-11, 2-8), will face the ninth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round. Having already knocked off the Buckeyes 4-3 earlier in the season, if the Lions can repeat the feat, they will run into Northwestern in the quarterfinals.
Sophomore Andreea Niculescu has been a steadying force in the Lions' lineup this year. Having seen action in all but the second singles position, Niculescu has put together an 18-10 (.643) season. Freshman Jenny Schular has been a constant source of scoring for the Penn State roster this year, going 19-5 (.792), primarily in the sixth position. While four individuals have seen time in the first singles position, senior Maaria Husain has had the most success, earning a 15-11 (.577) record. If Penn State is to overcome the Buckeyes and put Northwestern to the test in the quarters, it might be on the shoulders of senior Jessica McKeown. Riddled with injuries throughout her career, McKeown carries a five-match winning-streak into East Lansing.
The road has been one with many a winding turn for the sixth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers (9-12, 6-4). After opening the campaign 2-9, the Boilers have bounced back winning seven of their last ten matches. Ranked No. 49 nationally, the Purdue squad is solid up front with sophomore Hala Sufi at first singles and freshman Stephanie Wooten at second. The two have combined to go .500 in the team's first two singles spots. Freshman Brooke Beier and senior Amy Walgenbach have led the way in the later singles matches. Brier, who has settled into the fourth spot, after having some time in the fifth, has a season record of 16-13 (.552) and splitting time between the fifth and sixth singles positions, Walgenbach has amassed an 18-11 (.621) record.
Purdue will open competition at one of two simultaneous first-round matches. The Boilermakers will face-off against No. 11 Minnesota. During the regular season, Purdue upended the Gophers, 7-0. In the non-conference portion of their schedule, the Boilers defeated No. 33 Texas A&M.
The fifth seed at the Big Ten Championship belongs to the 38th ranked Wisconsin Badgers (14-7, 6-4). With that fifth seed comes a first round bye, meaning the Badgers will open their championship against No. 4 Illinois in the quarterfinals.
Wisconsin is an underclassmen-dominated team. While Seniors Katie McGaffigan and Lindsay Martin have performed well, McGaffigan at first singles and Martin in doubles, the younger Badgers have led the way for the team. Sophomore Caitlin Burke has been dominant at the second singles position, going 22-9 (.710) during the regular season. At the fourth position, another sophomore has been productive, especially as of late. Kaylan Caiati has a season record of 18-7 (.692), but has won 12 of her last 13 singles matches heading into the Big Ten Championship. Freshman Chelsea Nusslock has held down the sixth position for most of the year and has compiled a 14-7 (.667) record in dual matches. The pair of freshmen Nusslock and Nicole Beck has earned a season record of 9-5 (.643), primarily in the third doubles spot.