Women’s tennis team looks to avenge earlier loss to Illinois

first_imgAJ MACLEAN/Herald photoThe No. 38 Wisconsin women’s tennis team ventures to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend for the Big Ten tournament. With a first-round bye, the team will not take to the court until Friday when it will face the Fighting Illini in both squads’ first action of the tournament. The Badgers enter the tournament in fifth place in the Big Ten but hold the conference’s third-highest ranking, as only No. 5 Northwestern and No. 34 Indiana sit at loftier perches.Wisconsin last faced Illinois two weeks ago when the two squads squared off in Madison. Then-No. 33 Wisconsin dropped the match 4-3 against then-No. 54 Illinois but quickly rebounded the next day to defeat then No. 50 Purdue on Senior Day.“We’ve won a couple of 4-3 matches … we’ve lost a couple of 4-3 matches recently — we lost 4-3 yesterday to Illinois in a match that I wish we had [won] and to come back today and get that was huge,” head coach Patti Henderson said after the Purdue victory, noting the close nature of both matches.Conditions will be different when the Badgers face off against the Illini this time, though. The last meeting occurred on the outside courts of the Nielsen Tennis Stadium, but a recent band of nasty weather — including possible snow — has forced the Big Ten tournament indoors. And though this may sound like a trivial matter, a large constituency of the Wisconsin squad hails from the Midwest and grew up playing at least part of the year in an indoor environment.During the first round of the tournament, Penn State will face off against Ohio State for the right to go on to play top-seeded Northwestern in the second round. The winner of that second-round match with square off with the Badgers should they emerge victorious over the Illini. Against the three squads, Wisconsin has a 4-3 victory over Penn State — recorded on the road earlier this year — and a 7-0 victory registered against Ohio State just last week. But Wisconsin fell to Northwestern 5-2 in a closely contested affair earlier this season in Madison.Wisconsin’s strengths heading into the tournament come from the second and fourth slots, where sophomores Caitlin Burke and Kaylan Caiati, respectively, have posted some of the most impressive records of late. The team will also look for strong senior leadership from the first and third positions, where Katie McGaffigan and Lindsay Martin will be enjoying their final Big Ten tournaments. The fifth and sixth slots have been in flux of late, as a round of musical tennis players has recently bumped Chelsea Nusslock up from the sixth slot to the fifth, leaving Nicole Beck on the sideline during singles play and allowing Lexi Golden to enter into the sixth slot.The Badgers’ weak point on the season has certainly been the doubles game, with none of the original three pairings surviving the season fully in tact as of the season’s final match. But if the latest trifecta of doubles pairings can turn out strong and give Wisconsin the elusive first point on the day, look for the Badgers to make a strong showing in East Lansing.last_img