Illinois' doubles team of White, Kopinski advances to program's first quarterfinals
URBANA, Ill. -- Illinois senior Rachael White and sophomore Melissa Kopinski reached the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Doubles Championship on Friday at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex, becoming the first Fighting Illini doubles team to advance past the Round of 16. With the win, the pair earned All-America recognition, marking Illinois' first All-Americans since Lindsey Nimmo in 1993.
"We came out with a game plan and I think it paid off," White said. "We knew that it was going to be a tough match. They gave us a good run, but we came out on top. We knew they were going to attack a lot, so we had to make sure we took over the net before they did. It's really an honor, but we don't want to celebrate too early because we still have a long way to go."
White and Kopinski, the 22nd-ranked duo in the nation, upset ninth-ranked Whitney Ritchie and Hermon Brhane of Oklahoma in a 6-4, 7-6(5) battle. The contest was a rematch of White and Kopinski's 9-7 win against the Sooner tandem in a dual match on Feb. 24.
"They played so controlled in the pressure situations," head coach Michelle Dasso said. "They dug deep and they believed. They went after their shots and played to win. It's such an honor for them to be All-Americans. I'm so proud of them. Getting a banner up in Atkins has been something I dreamed of since I got here. It's amazing on so many levels. They deserve it, and they earned it. Getting to play on their home court in front of their home crowd couldn't have been better."
The pair now leads the Illini with a 28-12 mark this season, tying the seventh-most doubles wins in a single season in Illinois history. White and Kopinski are only the second and third women's tennis All-Americans in school history and are the fourth Illini doubles team to play in the NCAA championships.
The duo will continue its run Saturday, taking on second-seeded Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of USC. The Illini tandem will look to avenge an 8-5 loss to the Trojan combo in the quarterfinals of the Riviera/ITA All-American Doubles Championship in October.
"We know it's not over yet," Kopinski said. "We know we just have to take one match at a time and not get ahead of ourselves, but this is unreal."