October 16, 2009

Split result for Chicago on day one of ITA

Second-year Kendra Higgins could still get a singles national championship this weekend, but she won’t have a chance to double-up on doubles titles.

Yesterday, Higgins won her first match of the ITA Small College Championship’s singles draw, but she and her doubles partner, third-year Chrissy Hu, lost twice on the doubles side. The pair won the NCAA D-III Doubles Championship last May, and were the top seeds at the ITA.

Higgins beat Lia Weiner of Rochester 6–3, 6–4 in doubles, setting up a second round match with Carnegie’s Laura Chen this morning. Chen and Higgins met in the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA tournament, where Higgins led 4–6, 6–2, 3–0 before Chicago’s other singles players closed out the match.

If she can get past Chen, Higgins will play either Elizabeth Lewis of Chapman or Julia Browne of Tufts in tomorrow morning’s championship match.

In doubles, Higgins and Hu went down 7–5, 6–4 to Jackie Shtemberg and Felice Trinh of the College of New Jersey in the first round. The Chicago duo then played Emory’s Zahra Dawson and Lorne McManigle in the consolation bracket and lost 6–4, 7–6 (2).

On the heels of their back-to-back losses, Higgins and Hu were slated to play Sam Frank and Sierra Krebsbach of Gustavus Adolphus in the seventh-place match.

After Higgins won the singles bracket at the ITA Central Regional two weeks ago, and combined with Hu to win the doubles bracket at the same event, they booked their tickets for the ITA, which is held in Mobile, AL.

There, the top players from each of DIII’s eight regions will face each other, and the winners of singles and doubles play will advance to a multi-division, “Superbowl”-like competition.

Unlike the NCAA Championship, the ITA is held at the very start of the year, rather than at the end, in the spring.

“At the NCAA [Championship] you see every top team in the nation,” Higgins said. “It’s based on their rankings throughout the season, and you play off to see who’s the best of the best.”

“You see some of the same teams at the ITA Championships, and the competition may be as tough, but I feel like the NCAA [Championship] is more of an elite draw,” she continued.

Many of the top players are not even in the competition. One reason is that some tennis players choose to study abroad during the fall, since the main competition season is in the spring.

“I think that the NCAA has a different atmosphere—I feel more relaxed [at the ITA Championship],” Higgins said. “It’s the beginning of the season; many players are just getting back into the game now.”