Feb. 14, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State women's tennis team continues its trek through its non-conference slate as it heads to Chicago, Ill., for a weekend of matches. The 6-1 Spartans will be playing away from East Lansing for the first time this season. MSU faces UIC on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Match Point Tennis in Griffith, Ind. On Sunday, MSU will take on arguably its biggest test of the young season so far as it squares off against No. 53 DePaul at 2 p.m. inside Lakeshore Sport and Fitness in Chicago.
"The key for us is going to be to get ready this week, to really capitalize during practices," head coach Simone Jardim said. "We've got to focus on what's important and not worry about the little things that we can't control. The things that we can control, those are the things we've got to work with because we'll need those on game day."
Last weekend, MSU capped off its seven-match home stand by winning its doubleheader of matches. MSU defeated Bowling Green, 5-2, in the morning match and then swept Oakland, 7-0, in the afternoon match. The pair of wins helped push MSU's winning streak up to four matches.
To go along with the team's four-match streak, several players are on winning streaks of their own. Senior co-captain Marina Bohrer has started dual play with a 6-0 mark. Junior Catherine Parenteau has won four of her first five matches to start the season, splitting time between the second and third courts. Senior Olga Chernova and freshman Athena Trouillot each have won six of their first seven matches of the season, including their last four in a row.
Through seven matches, MSU holds a .833 winning percentage on singles courts, compiling a 35-7 record. The Spartans winning percentage in the alleys is just at tick lower at .789 as they are 15-4.
The Flames of UIC come into Saturday's match with a 1-5 record. The lone win for the Flames came against ASA College, a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association. UIC will also be hosting its first home match of the season. Shannon Tully is in her 13th season as head coach of the Flames.
UIC has a pair of impressive streaks going for them. UIC has won the Horizon League championship for 17 consecutive seasons and has advanced to the NCAA Tournament for 15 straight years.
"UIC is a tough team and it will be a good test," Jardim said. "We're on the road, it'll be different because we're not playing on our courts. Maybe it will be good for us to see what we're made of."
Senior Mariana Palacios has played all of her matches on the No. 1 singles court and is 1-4 on the season in that position. Senior Natalia Kuvakina is 0-4 when playing on the second court.
In doubles, Palacios teams with sophomore Ann-Sophie Hahn on the top court and the pair have a 0-3 mark this season.
Under Coach Jardim, this is the first dual match meeting between the two schools.
MSU's matchup with No. 53 DePaul on Sunday will be one of the Spartans' biggest non-conference matches. The Blue Demons are the only ranked opponent the Spartans have on their non-conference slate before Big Ten play begins. Jardim considers the matchup on Sunday a great opportunity and believes her team will be ready to bring it, even though they will be the underdog.
"It's a little different to play that way, when you're the underdog," she said. "When you go out and you're playing you have less pressure, but the pressure is still there from within us, which is fine, that's just how the game works. We as a team play better that way, we'll play up to that level."
DePaul is 6-1 this season under 18th-year head coach Mark Ardizzone. Four of the Blue Demons' six wins have come against ranked opponents, including a shutout of No. 25 TCU, 4-0. The lone slip up for DePaul came at the hands of then-No. 7 Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
Junior Patricia Fargas leads the way in singles, as she has played every match on the top court, tallying a 2-3 overall mark. DePaul is just 5-7 combined on the top two courts, but has a combined record of 20-3 on courts three through six. In doubles, Fargas teams with sophomore Ana Vladutu to go 4-0 on the top court.
In the last meeting between the two schools on Feb. 17, 2013, then-No. 71 DePaul defeated MSU, 6-1, in East Lansing. Bohrer earned the lone point for the Spartans on the top court. Bohrer and Parenteau won their match on the top doubles court defeating Fargas and Vladutu, but MSU lost the other two doubles matches.
MSU has two players on its roster hailing from the state of Illinois. Freshman Anna Zelechonok comes to East Lansing by way of Northbrook, Ill., and sophomore Emily Meyers by way of Naperville, Ill. Zelechonok was a four-year member of the Glenbrook North High School varsity tennis team and was a three-time All-State selection. Meyers was a member of the Neuqua Valley High School varsity tennis team. Playing No. 1 singles, she was conference and sectional champion in 2008 and 2009.
MSU returns home next weekend as it hosts Western Michigan on Feb. 21 and a doubleheader of Milwaukee and Wright State on Feb. 23.