East Lansing, Mich.--The Northwestern Wildcats entered their semifinal match with fifth seed Wisconsin, riding a 19-match Big Ten winning-streak, and while the Badgers created some drama early, the streak continued after a 4-1 Wildcat victory.
During the doubles point matches, the Badgers made it quite clear that they were not going to simply step aside for the six-time defending Big Ten champs. The fifth-ranked Wildcats got all they could handle from Wisconsin.
On third doubles, Northwestern's Valerie Vladea and Feriel Esseghir defeated Badgers Chelsea Nusslock and Nicole Beck in relatively quick fashion, but their victory would prove to be the Wildcats' only one of the doubles matches.
At first doubles, the ITA National Indoor Doubles champion team of freshman phenom Audra Cohen and two-time defending Big Ten Player of the Year Cristelle Grier found themselves in a quick 5-2 hole to Wisconsin's Katie McGaffigan and Caitlin Burke. After the Wildcats fell victim to a string of unforced errors, they found their focus and got the score back close at 6-5. The teams exchanged service games until the score was 7-6. Serving for the match Burke came through to claim the win, 8-6.
With the first two matches being split, the focus of the entire complex moved to the second doubles court. The Northwestern pair of Alexis Prousis and Kristi Roemer looked to be in control, leading Kaylan Caiati and Lindsay Martin, 4-1. However, the Badgers' squad came clawing back, winning the next four games, to take a 5-4 lead in the match. The two teams traded games until the score was 7-6, and Martin was serving for the match, and the doubles point.
Up 30-15, Martin misjudged an overhand slam and hit the ball two feet short of the net. On the next rally, Wisconsin netted a crosscourt attempt. After giving the `Cats a break point, Martin and Caiati fought back to earn a match point, but a winning attempt sailed just wide of the doubles lane. Northwestern took the next two points to claim the game, and even the score at 7-7. In the match's 15th game, the Badgers broke Prousis' serve and again found themselves serving for the doubles point.
With Caiati serving, the Badgers earned a 40-0 advantage giving them three match point opportunities, but the Northwestern team would not go down easily. Prousis and Roemer got the score to 40-30 before Martin jetted across the net to cut off a crossing attempt. Her reactionary shot bounced in and gave Wisconsin the match and the doubles point, heading into singles play.
Despite the disappointing doubles outcome, the defending champions would not be deterred. After a streaky doubles performance, Audra Cohen looked strong and steady against Wisconsin's Katie McGaffigan. After an hour and fifteen minutes across the net from each other in their doubles match, Cohen made short work of McGaffigan, 6-2, 6-0.
On the third court, after an even longer doubles match, Alexis Prousis extracted a measure of revenge for her doubles defeat from Lindsay Martin. Prousis gave Northwestern the lead by winning at three, 6-0, 6-2.
Andrea Yung secured the next victory for the `Cats at fifth singles. Yung knocked off Nicole Beck 6-4, 6-2 and less than a minute later, Valerie Vladea sealed the victory for Northwestern by knocking off Kaylan Caiati at four, 6-3, 7-5.
The two abandoned matches were both very close, with Wisconsin leading at the sixth spot, 6-2, 0-6, 3-2 and at two, 7-5, 1-5.
The win will afford Northwestern the opportunity to earn its seventh-straight Big Ten Women's Tennis Championship. The Wildcats will meet seventh seeded Michigan in the finals on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. ET. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats defeated Michigan 5-2. Log onto BigTen.org throughout the 2005 Women's Tennis Championship for up-to-date scores, updates, and results.