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Saturday, May 25, 2024
Wisconsin Womens Tennis vs Illinois9073.JPG

Badgers split weekend against pair of Big Ten opponents in Illinois

After suffering a loss due to an overturned match against Northwestern, the Wisconsin Badgers bounced back against the Fighting Illini.

The No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers’ tennis team (16-2, 6-1 Big Ten) split their weekend against the Northwestern Wildcats and No. 35 Illinois Fighting Illini last Friday and Sunday. 

Sitting at 11 consecutive wins going into their matchup against the Wildcats, the Badgers looked to break the 1996 program record of 12 straight on enemy turf. 

Doubles play proved difficult for the Badgers, even with a change in pairings. Northwestern broke away for an early lead with an upset over Xinyu Cai and Maria Sholokhova. The Badgers ceded the doubles point with a 2-6 loss on court three. 

The Badgers looked to bounce back in singles play but were met with another early loss at the hands of Northwestern’s Maria Shusharina on court one. 

Wisconsin fought back to make up some lost ground and regain their footing in the matchup. Ariel Johnson’s efforts on court five became the Badgers’ crux as the junior opened singles play by taking four consecutive games in an upset over Northwestern’s Rabjohns 6-2, 6-2. Rosie Garcia Gross echoed Johnson with a defeat over the Wildcats’ Lau.

As Northwestern responded to the Badgers’ efforts by taking their third point on court four, Wisconsin’s Taylor Cataldi secured the Badgers’ next win with a 7-5, 6-4 nailbiter against Sydney Pratt. 

While Wisconsin initially came out of the matchup with a 4-3 victory due to No. 78 Sholokhova’s defeat over No. 110 Leong on court two earlier in the matchup, the Big Ten Conference announced on Wednesday the match would be overturned after a “lineup protest filed by Northwestern regarding the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions was upheld.”

“As a result of the committee’s decision, the No. 2 singles point is awarded to Northwestern to result in a 4-3 match victory for the Wildcats, while all other individual match results will be maintained,” the announcement read. Wisconsin missed its opportunity to set a program record for most consecutive away wins.

Wisconsin bounced back in its subsequent matchup against Illinois.

The Badgers’ fate in doubles play mimicked that of their matchup against Northwestern. The Fighting Illini’s successes on courts two and three meant they took home the point and the early lead in the matchup.

However, the Badgers turned up the heat in singles play by only allowing the Fighting Illini to take one point. 

Wisconsin’s Sholokhova claimed the first point for the Badgers with straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. 

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Although Illinois claimed four of six opening sets, Wisconsin rallied back in the second set and forced the four matches to be decided in the third set. 

The Badgers’ Ariel Johnson obtained the next point for Wisconsin by rallying back from a close 5-7 loss in the first set. She then edged out Illinois’ Kasia Treiber 6-2, 6-2. Cataldi followed Johnson’s trend by dropping the first set before turning around and upsetting McKenna Schaefbauer 6-3, 7-5.

Wisconsin’s fourth point to clinch the matchup came at the hands of Cai on court three. Cai fought off two tiebreak sets, defeating Illinois’ Josie Frazier 7-5, 7-5.

Splitting the weekend 1-1, the Badgers now sit at second in the Big Ten standings with a record of 6-1, narrowly behind the undefeated Michigan Wolverines.

Wisconsin will return to the Nielsen Tennis Stadium to conclude home play with a matchup against the Wolverines on Friday before closing out their weekend with senior day celebrations ahead of their matchup against the Michigan State Spartans. 

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