Easy wins for D-I opponents UIC, DePaul provide youthful Maroon squad chances to prepare

Women’s tennis knew the beginning of their schedule would be tough, and their predictions proved correct this weekend, as UIC and DePaul both scored 7–0 wins over the Maroons.

By Jordan Holliday

Back-to-back matches this weekend against D-I competition didn’t help the women’s tennis team’s record any. Still, the Maroons are hopeful that taking these early lumps will have them better prepared later on.

In Saturday’s match with UIC (1–1), the Maroons (1–2) took only one set off the Flames, who blanked Chicago in a 7–0 victory. Sunday’s date with DePaul (3–0) did not turn out any better: Again the Maroons won just one set, and again they fell by a final of 7–0. The Maroons were the home team for both matches, which were played at South Side tennis centers.

DePaul was a particularly tough challenge for the Maroons. The Blue Demons are ranked 62nd nationally in DI, and they have two players and a double combo ranked regionally.

“From all the team matches we have had thus far, Depaul has been our greatest competition. They are a very talented team,” first-year Kendra Higgins said.

There was no shortage of talent on the UIC team, either. Jenna Reisch and Ilinca Cristescu, one of the Flames’ doubles combos, is ranked 13th in the Midwest, and the pair downed first-years Jennifer Kung and Aswini Krishnan, 8–2. Kung had not played doubles in the Maroons’ earlier match this season.

“We still have a lot to work on for doubles since we’re still getting used to playing with our partners,” Kung said.

Higgins had one of the Maroons’ strongest performances against UIC. Playing Mariya Kovaleva at the two spot in singles, she won the second set 7–6 (10–8) and narrowly lost 7–5 in the third. In doubles, Higgins was partnered with second-year Chrissy Hu, and the two kept things close against Kovaleva and Kristen McPhillips, who finally won 8–5.

Hu also played fourth in singles, where she fell 6–3, 7–6 (7–4) to Elena Antakova.

Playing DePaul the next day, it was first-year Tiffany Nguyen who picked up a set for Chicago. Nguyen played sixth and beat Cali Gustafson 6–3 in their second set, but lost the tiebreaker 10–7.

The match with the Blue Demons was another solid one for Higgins. She played Dunia Antunovic, who is ranked eighth in the Midwest, and pushed her to 7–6 in the first set, but lost 6–2 in the second.

Higgins was again paired with Hu for doubles, where they faced Antunovic and Kirsten Gambrell. As doubles partners, Antunovic and Gambrell are ranked second in the Midwest and 36th nationally, and it showed as they rolled 8–1.

In first singles, Kung was up against the Blue Demons’ other ranked player, Anna Radeeci, who is 26th in the Midwest. Radeeci topped Kung 6–3, 6–1.

Although the scores weren’t great, the Maroons are looking past that and focusing on the benefits of taking on some of the country’s best players.

“Playing Division-I teams such as Depaul allows us to play at a level we do not see as often,” Higgins said. “Also by playing division I teams, we get to experience intense match situations that will help us play better in the long run when we play against high caliber Division-III teams.”

Kung agreed that the matches would benefit Chicago in the long term.

“Even though we lost, these kinds of matches are good learning experiences, especially for a young team like us,” Kung said.

Chicago’s next match will be February 7, at home against Chicago State.