May 14, 2010

Courtesy of Huskers.com

Evanston, Ill. - The Nebraska women's tennis team edged No. 22 Illinois 4-2 on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Championships in Evanston, Ill. The win marked the first-ever NCAA Tournament win for the Huskers, who will play No. 5 Northwestern on Saturday in a second-round matchup.

NU's Mary Weatherholt clinched the match for the Huskers with a three-set victory at No. 1 singles over Illinois' Megan Fudge. The All-Big 12 performer, who has been a key fixture at the top of the lineup all year for Nebraska, won the final two sets in her match after dropping the first set 6-0.

"I just think we all love each other so much and it's so easy to fight for each other," Weatherholt said.

"Knowing that the others will get it done makes it easier for me to have confidence that I'll get it done too if I play my game. I can't imagine a better group to play with. I was trying to put it all on the line for those girls."

The Huskers didn't start the match on the right foot, as they dropped the doubles point after falling at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, giving the Fighting Illini a 1-0 lead heading into singles play.

But the Huskers, who have been exceptional in singles play all season, battled back and showed their resilience in coming back against a tough Illinois squad.

Madeleine Geibert tied the match at 1-1 after a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles, but Illinois regained the lead shortly after with a win at No. 3 singles. Jennifer Holmberg tied the match at 2-2 with a straight-set victory at No. 6 singles.

Freshman Stefanie Weinstein battled back from a set down to take the No. 4 singles match in a third-set tiebreaker, giving the Huskers a 3-2 lead. Weatherholt then clinched the match with her three-set victory at No. 1 singles.

"This team all season long has played with tremendous passion," NU Head Coach Scott Jacobson said. "It didn't matter that we lost the doubles point today, they came out knowing in their hearts that they could accomplish it and played with a sense of self-belief from the beginning of singles to the end."

Each match was closely contested as the two teams were very evenly matched. Nebraska managed to dig deep and find a way to win the close points and give NU its first postseason victory in school history.

"You just tell them to keep fighting because Illinois is a great program and a great team with tremendous fight," Jacobson said about the team's ability to win in such a tight match. "It might take a lot longer to get it done but you just have to stay with it. There were long points and long matches at pretty much every position but they made us better today and made us have to compete awfully hard to get it done today."

The Huskers will face site hosts Northwestern on Saturday. The Wildcats are ranked fifth in the nation and are the 12-time reigning Big Ten champions.

No. 37 Nebraska 4, No. 22 Illinois 2

Doubles
No. 1 Geibert/Weinstein (NU) def. Finnegan/White, 8-4
No. 2 Fudge/Abajian (ILL) def. Swarting/Weinstein, 8-0
No. 3 Lambropoulos/Smutko (ILL) def. Holmberg/Weatherholt, 8-5

Singles
No. 1 Mary Weatherholt (NU) def. Megan Fudge, 0-6, 6-3, 7-5
No. 2 Madeleine Geibert (NU) def. Leigh Finnegan, 6-3, 6-2
No. 3 Rachael White (ILL) def. Wiveca Swarting, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2
No. 4 Stefanie Weinstein (NU) def. Chelce Abajian, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3)
No. 5 Janine Weinreich (NU) vs. Breanne Smutko (ILL), 7-6 (7), 4-6, 1-0 unf.
No. 6 Jennifer Holmberg (NU) def. Marisa Lambropoulos, 7-6 (3), 6-2

Order of finish
Doubles: 2, 1, 3
Singles: 2, 3, 6, 4, 1