May 9, 2009

Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

URBANA, Ill. The No. 34-ranked Illinois women's tennis team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championship with a thrilling 4-3 win over the No.19 Vanderbilt Commodores this afternoon at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. The match came down to No. 6 singles, where Illinois junior Kristina Minor performed with the heart of a champion, clinching the upset win for the Illini with an incredible overhead winning shot in a tie-break third set, to advance the Fighting Illini to the second round.

"This was a phenomenal college NCAA match," Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso said. "I'm so proud of the girls. Our team never gives up. They fight until the end and today we finally proved it. We've been close all year and coming in to today we talked about how the girls deserved it and if they kept fighting it was going to come through. What was so exciting about that was Kristina Minor sticking her volley. She made about five volleys in the last couple points and an overhead winner. Those are areas we have been working on all year."

With the win, the Illini improve to 19-7, while the Commodores end their season at 11-9.

"This has been our goal all year long- to win a round," Dasso added. "We finally won our first top-20 win in our program since I've been here. It's pretty exciting."

In doubles, Vanderbilt started out strong, grabbing a victory in the No. 1 slot. At No. 3 doubles, the Illinois duo of Annie McCarthy and Amy Allin fought hard against the Commodores' Courtney and Keilly Ulery, but fell short as the Vanderbilt duo clinched the doubles point with a 9-8 (3) win.

The Illini responded quickly notching victories at No. 4 and 5 singles to go up on top, 2-1. At No. 5 singles, Illinois freshman Amy Allin polished off Vanderbilt's Heather Steinbauer in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. Sophomore Marisa Lambropoulos struck next, taking a similar win at No. 4 singles against the Commodores' Chelsea Preeg, 6-3, 6-2.

The Commodores went up 3-2, with wins at Nos. 2 and 3. However, the valiant performance by Illini veteran Megan Fudge at No. 1 singles evened the overall score at 3-3. The feisty play of the 75th-ranked Fudge proved to be too much for Vanderbilt's 52nd-ranked Jackie Wu. Fudge (ILL) bageled Wu in the first set, 6-0, before Wu battled back to take the second set, 6-4. Fudge's experience in pressure situations showed today, as she remained calm and composed to take the match 6-0, 4-6, 6-4.

The match came down to No. 6 singles where Minor went back-and-forth with Vanderbilt's Courtney Ulery. After the two split the first two sets, it all came down to a tiebreaker in the third and final set. With her teammates cheering her on and the crowd support behind her, Minor stepped up and delivered incredible volleys in the final points, edging out Ulery (VAN) in the third set, 7-6 (5) to clinch the upset win for Illinois.

"I've definitely never been so happy in my life," Minor said of her win. "I'm so happy we pulled this match out. Tennis is one of those things where I could play my best and win the match, but my team could still lose so it doesn't really mean anything. Just the fact that I could contribute to the team feels amazing. The crowd was unbelievable."

This marks the first time the Illini have advanced to the second round since 2003.

Illinois advances to play No. 16 Fresno State in the next round on Sunday, May 10 at 1 pm CT, at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. The Bulldogs moved on the second round with a 4-0 win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels earlier today.

Live scoring will be available at fightingillini.com. Admission is $5 dollars for adults and $3 dollars for students.

#34 University of Illinois 4, #19 Vanderbilt 3 5/9/2009 at Urbana, Ill. (Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex)

#34 University of Illinois 4, #19 Vanderbilt 3

Singles competition
1. #75 Megan Fudge (ILL) def. #52 Jackie Wu (VAND) 6-0, 4-6, 6-4
2. #64 Catherine Newman (VAND) def. #103 Leigh Finnegan (ILL) 6-2, 6-4
3. Keilly Ulery (VAND) def. Chelcie Abajian (ILL) 6-4, 7-6 (8-6)
4. Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) def. Chelsea Preeg (VAND) 6-3, 6-2
5. Amy Allin (ILL) def. Heather Steinbauer (VAND) 6-3, 6-2
6. Kristina Minor (ILL) def. Courtney Ulery (VAND) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5)

Doubles competition
1. Catherine Newman/Jackie Wu (VAND) def. Leigh Finnegan/Chelcie Abajian (ILL) 8-4
2. Marisa Lambropoulos/Megan Fudge (ILL) vs. Chelsea Preeg/Heather Steinbauer (VAND) 7-6, unfinished
3. Courtney Ulery/Keilly Ulery (VAND) def. Amy Allin/Annie McCarthy (ILL) 9-8 (7-3)

Match Notes: Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (5,4,2,3,1,6)