May 9, 2009

Courtesy: nusports.com

EVANSTON, Ill. - Top-ranked Northwestern is headed south next weekend to Texas A&M, site of the 2009 NCAA Women's Tennis Championships, following its 4-1 second-round defeat of No. 26 Kentucky Saturday at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center in Evanston. This is the sixth consecutive season that head coach Claire Pollard has guided her team to a berth in the tournament's round of 16.

Northwestern (27-1) is slated to play Friday, May 15, against the winner of a second-round match between No. 16 Fresno State and No. 34 Illinois, which takes place tomorrow (Sunday) at 1 p.m. CT.

The Wildcats emerged from their regional bracket thanks to Saturday's win against a resilient Kentucky team in which senior Keri Robison stepped up to win her No. 6 singles match against Whitney Spencer and put to rest any thoughts of an upset by the visitors.

"To see what Keri has done for us this year is just so much fun and so rewarding," Pollard said. "First in doubles she played a fantastic match and then played a great singles match and that's the leadership we're going to need down the stretch. There was a moment where it was a little scary and I wasn't sure where we were going to get our last three points from but I think matches like that only help us down the road."

NU got things rolling on Saturday with wins by its two NCAA Championship-bound doubles pairs.

After an unfinished match at No. 2 doubles on Friday, 29th-ranked Robison and Maria Mosolova raced to an 8-1 victory thanks to a 6-0 run to start. Their opponents, Megan Broderick and Christine Johnston, took back a game before Robison put NU ahead 7-1 with a backhand volley to finish the game. On match point, a backhand return by Kentucky sailed wide of the court as Mosolova and Robison won their 17th consecutive match.

Even at three in the first doubles match against Carolina Escomilla and Caroline Lilly, Georgia Rose and Lauren Lui managed a break of Kentucky's service game to go ahead 4-3 before Rose quickly held serve to give NU a two-game advantage. After holds by each team, NU got the deciding break in the next game to gain a 7-4 lead before Rose served out the match without dropping a point.

Kentucky was not discouraged by the loss of the doubles point, battling top-ranked Northwestern hard in all six singles matches. But NU got a big lift at No. 2 from 20th-ranked Rose, who bested Escamilla by a 6-2, 6-1 decision for her 25th singles win of the year. Escamilla started strong, scoring on a number of well-placed drop shots, but Rose eventually wore down her opponent and coasted through the second set to give NU a 2-0 lead.

No. 1-ranked Mosolova notched the third Northwestern point with a 6-3, 6-1 win against Megan Broderick, moving to 17-4 in dual matches this season.

With NU down a set in each remaining match on the courts besides her own, Robison came up huge for her squad when, tied at four in the first, Robison managed a break against Spencer to claim the set 6-4. She raced to a 4-1 lead in the second where she broke Spencer yet again, giving herself a chance to serve out the match. The senior did just that, acing Spencer on match point to send Northwestern into the round of 16.

"I was a little bit nervous, I knew that everybody was having a tough match just like I was so I felt some pressure to close it out," Robison said. "I just wanted to take it one point at a time and that helped me stay focused right through to the end."