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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Women's tennis: Avgerinos, Wisconsin Badgers can't overcome firepower of Hoosiers

As the year beings to wrap up, this season has been a rebuilding period for the UW women’s tennis team. Through all the ups and downs, the team showed great improvement as the season went on. But those strides weren’t enough to propel the Badgers (0-8 Big Ten, 4-13 overall) to a victory Friday night as Indiana (3-5, 12-11) pulled out a 6-1 win.

The strong pairing of Senior Maria Avgerinos and Junior Kelsey Grambeau was unable to defeat an equally skilled partnership of sophomore Madison Appel and senior Kim Schmider, as the IU team won 6-3 on the top court.

Senior Sydney Rider and freshman Christina Zordani were also unable to overcome the sophomore-freshman duo of Caitlin Bernard and Pauline Jahren, as the Hoosiers claimed a 6-2 win and earned the doubles point.

In singles, senior Maria Avgerinos showed plenty of heart in her first Big Ten win playing in the No. 1 singles slot. Down 1-4 in the opening set to Appel, Avgerinos rallied to win the next five games and take the set 6-4. Carrying her momentum into the next set, Avgerinos coasted to a 6-4, 6-1 win.

“I just remember all the work I’ve put in, and being down 4-1 I didn’t want to let that set go,” Avgerinos said. “I knew I was right there in it, so I figured out some things to do and trusted my game.”

Not all Badgers had the same success as Avgerinos this weekend, however. While Avgerinos prevailed, the team lost close, hard-fought matches the rest of the way.

Grambeau, after losing the first set 2-6, rallied to take the second set 6-4, but ended up losing a tough match to senior Paula Gutierrez 2-6, 6-4, 5-7. On Court 3, freshman Michelle Linden tried to even-up the match, but fell 6-2, 6-3 to extend IU’s lead.

The Hoosiers continued their dominance on Court 4, as Rider was no match for the firepower of sophomore Natalie Whalen, getting smoked 6-1 6-0. Freshman Melissa Pick tried to raise spirits with a tightly contested match, but ceded the match to senior Kim Schmider 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (6).

On Court 6, Zordani put forth her best effort against IU freshman Jahren, but again fell just short in a 6-4, 6-4 loss.

Despite the blowout scoreline, Avgerinos remained confident in the direction the team is headed.

“It’s always hard to rebound after a loss, and that’s something we’ve worked on,” she said. “We’ve had some tough weekends, but we show up to practice every Monday ready to go and that shows the type of character we have on this team. We’re just constantly trying to get better, and we’re always learning.”

Head coach Kelcy McKenna shared Avgerinos’ sentiment.

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“It’s hard to see tangible improvement when you’re not having the results you want, but I think as people, and improving their game, our results have gotten significantly better,” McKenna said. “It’s been cool to see them come together as a team.”

Although the numerous losses have been tough on Avgerinos, she says she has enjoyed every moment of her senior season, even with the added responsibility of moving up to the top singles position and becoming the leader of the team.

“As I go into my last home match tomorrow, I wish I could restart … I wish I could do this all over again,” Avgerinos said. “Wearing the ‘W’ is something so special, and I’ve just cherished all the opportunities.”

Knowing how much the team means to her seniors Rider and Avgerinos, McKenna is making sure that senior day is a special one for her veteran stars.

“We’re going to honor them and their families and we have a couple surprises for them as parting gifts,” McKenna said. “I’m really happy I got to have a year with them. They’re unbelievable people and it’s just been awesome getting to know them.”

The Badgers host their last home match of the season April 16 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium against Purdue at 11 a.m.

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