Northwestern Wins Eighth Straight Big Ten Championship
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - In a rematch of the 2005 Big Ten Championship, No. 3 Michigan and No. 1 Northwestern battled it out for this year's crown.
Michigan began its upset campaign by winning No. 2 and No. 3 doubles to take the important one point advantage into singles play. Cristelle Grier and Alexis Prousis were able to hold off Kara Delicata and Debra Streifler at the top doubles spot, but with Lindsey Howard and Nina Yaftali victorious at No. 3 by an 8-3 margin, it was up to court two to decide the point. Shaftner and Chisako Sugiyama held a 7-2 lead, which Georgia Rose and Feriel Essenghir were able to cut to 7-5, but the Wolverines held on and won their eighth game to give their team a 1-0 lead in the match.
The Wildcats got the point back quickly however, as All-Big Ten team member Alexis Prousis took the No. 3 singles point from Nina Yaftali, 6-3, 6-1 in under an hour. Grier then won handily at No. 2 singles 6-1, 6-2, against Elizabeth Exon, who was involved in the marathon game last night against Iowa. Exon showed no signs of fatigue, but was no match for the three-time Big Ten Player of the Year and All-American from Northwestern.
Nazlie Ghazal took the third match in favor of the Wildcats at No. 6 singles, defeating Howard 6-1, 6-3 to put Northwestern one point away from victory.
Sugiyama picked up the lone singles point for Michigan at No. 5, beating Essenghir for the second time on the day by a score of 7-5, 6-2. Sugiyama's win made the score 3-2 with two matches to play.
Seconds after the No. 5 match was completed Rose picked up the fourth and decisive point for the Wildcats with her 6-4, 6-1 win over Delicata at No. 1. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year completed her perfect Big Ten season, with 25-0 singles mark entering NCAA Tournament play.
The 4-1 score sealed the win for the Wildcats, who were crowned 2006 Big Ten Champions after the match. The title is the eighth-consecutive for Northwestern, as head coach Claire Pollard has won the Big Ten every year since her arrival in Evanston.