SPORTS

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October 6, 2009

At ITA Regional, Higgins and Hu win again

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Last time we saw second-year Kendra Higgins and third-year Chrissy Hu playing doubles, the pair were in Lawrenceville, GA, winning the D-III Doubles National Championship. Now, four months later, they’re doing more of the same.

Competing in this weekend’s ITA Regional Championships at DePauw, Higgins and Hu brought home the hardware on Sunday by beating a familiar pair—Denison’s Marta Drane and Kristin Cobb—in the doubles final, 2–6, 6–4, 6–4. And that was just championship one of two for Higgins, who beat teammate and fellow second-year Carmen Vaca Guzman 6–4, 6–2 yesterday morning to secure the singles title.

Higgins and Hu sailed into the doubles final, winning their matches in the rounds of 32 and 16 8–0, then dropping their opponents in the quarterfinals and semifinals in straight-set matches.

But once the two Maroons were slotted against Denison’s Drane and Cobb in the championship match, they knew they would have a fight on their hands.

“Denison is a big rival of ours, [Drane and Cobb] are a top three team in the nation for doubles also,” Higgins said. “So it was number one and number three going at it.”

The two doubles pairs met last February, when Chicago played Denison and Kenyon on a trip through Ohio. Drane and Cobb lost that match 8–5, but picking off five games is about as well as anyone does against Higgins and Hu.

This time, Drane and Cubb fared even better, beating the Chicago pair convincingly in the first set before Higgins and Hu managed to win out 6–4, 6–4.

“They were playing really, really well the first set, and I think Chrissy and I just picked it up a notch,” Higgins said. “It was really close, I don’t think the score reflected how close it was. I really credit our win to Chrissy, because she did a lot of things; she covered the court for us.”

The singles side yielded an even more interesting final match-up, this one between Higgins and Vaca Guzman, two teammates who are intimately familiar with each other’s games.

“I kind of had a hunch going in that I was going to play someone from Chicago, because we have many good players,” Higgins said.

Higgins, the top seed in the singles tournament, was the second consecutive Chicago opponent for Vaca Guzman, who was seeded eighth, and beat second-year Jennifer Kung 6–2, 6–1 in her semifinal match.

Once the brackets played out such that two Maroons were paired in the final, it was decided that they would play each other back in Chicago Monday morning, rather than at DePauw. In the end, Higgins played to seed, holding off her teammate 6–4, 6–2.

“On any given day we could beat each other,” Higgins said. “Today was a good day for me, and this past weekend was a good weekend for me.”

The all-Chicago final put head coach Marty Perry in an unusual position, given his obvious rooting interest in both sides. Ultimately, Higgins said, Perry let the two play out and didn’t give either any tips on beating her fellow Maroon.

The path to the finals wasn’t completely smooth for Higgins, who played solidly throughout most of her matches but did drop the first set in the quarterfinals, which was against Kara Zdanowski, another Denison standout.

“When you’re the number one seed, everybody is gunning for you, they’re the people with nothing to lose,” Higgins said.

Winning this weekend means Higgins and Hu have yet another date on their schedule, the ITA Small College Championships, which will be played in Mobile, AL, October 15–18. That tournament will bring the winners of the singles and doubles draws from all of the regional tournaments, and it has been good to Chicago lately: Kung won on the singles side in 2008.

“There’s only a couple of teams that are going to be there that we haven’t faced before, but the majority of the time it’s going to be mostly the same matches that we faced at NCAAs, so we know it’s going to be some tough competition,” Higgins said.