February 26, 2010

Women's tennis takes first crack at indoor nationals

With the quarter coming to a close, Chicago athletes have one additional thing to worry about: championship season. For women’s tennis, that will come this weekend at the indoor national championships at DePauw.

This is the second year the national tournament is being run by the ITA, and the first time the Maroons have qualified for the tournament. Needless to say, the team, which is ranked fourth in DIII, is looking forward to it.

To qualify, teams must be seeded in the top eight in DIII by the ITA, the governing body of NCAA tennis. The teams are then placed into brackets with the top seeds facing the lower-ranked seeds. Eight of the top thirteen teams in the country will be competing in this year’s tournament. Noticeably absent are Amherst and Williams, ranked number one and two respectively, whose conference rules do not permit them to compete in championships until later in the season.

This leaves Chicago as the number-two seed in the competition. However, this doesn’t mean the team is resting on its laurels.

“All the other teams are here, and they are all great competitors,” second-year Kendra Higgins said. “It’s never going to be an easy match.”

If anyone had reason to rest, it would be Higgins. She has already won the DIII doubles’ title along with third-year Chrissy Hu, but neither she nor her teammates are holding anything back.

“We’ve been having two-a-days, morning practices, and night practices,” Higgins said. “We’ve focused a lot and are trying to get into the match mind-set to prepare.”

Their first match is against 11th-ranked DePauw, who is competing with the home-team advantage. If they do advance they will then compete in the semifinals against either Johns Hopkins or Washington and Lee on Saturday. In the event that they are knocked out, the consolation round will be at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and the competition for third place will occur Sunday at 9:00 a.m.

On the other side of the bracket, there is quite a bit of competition for top-ranked Emory. Last year they defeated the Maroons all three times the two teams faced each other.

“We’re a little more confident, a little older, and we know what we’re going into,” Higgins said.

Another formidable, if underrated, team is the fourth seed­­­­—ranked sixth nationally—Carnegie Mellon. Last year they came from behind in the fifth seed to win by beating Emory in the championships.

As the team prepared to get on the bus for DePauw, Higgins did not sound worried.

“All of us have confidence in how we will play this week; hopefully it will go well.”

Full coverage of almost all of the event’s matches can be followed live on the DePauw women’s tennis webpage.