The Illinois women’s tennis team went into the ITA Midwest Regionals with an optimistic mindset, especially given its solid record in the last few tournaments and the addition of four freshmen to the program.
Head coach Evan Clark described the weekend as the highest accomplishment in the team’s recent history. Two players made the quarterfinals and one made it to the semifinals. What made the feat even more impressive is the fact that all three players are freshmen.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had that in the history of Illinois women’s tennis, so that was obviously really encouraging. And all three of them freshmen, that just kind of shows what level they are at already, and so we’re really, really pleased,” Clark said.
Clark was always confident about his players’ preparation sand had high hopes for his team. His expectations were exceeded.
“We beat some high ranked opponents. We had very high expectations and some of the results were very surprising just with who they beat: young kids beating upperclassmen,” Clark said. “Preparation was really good, and I was just more impressed on match day. When they showed up on match day, they were really focused.”
Emilee Duong was the team’s best performer, making it into the semifinals of the main draw. She worked her way through the qualifying draw and the main draw, dropping just one set throughout, before she lost to Chiara Lommer from Michigan, who went on to win the entire tournament.
“I was just aiming to get through (qualifiers) and win maybe one round in the main draw, but I ended up just going and going. I just took it one match at a time. I didn’t look too far ahead and eventually I just got to the semis,” Duong said.
Mia Rabinowitz also cruised through the main draw, winning all matches in straight sets, before her encounter with Lommer.
“I played three tough matches against really good players. And it kind of shows my level, where I can get to and what I still need to work on,” Rabinowitz said, who has been trying to expand her game and bring more variety and unpredictability into it. She also backed the team for future success, while outlining their plans for the upcoming year.