Feb. 20, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - After splitting its road matches in Chicago last weekend, the Michigan State women's tennis team returns home for a full weekend of matches. The Spartans (7-2) will play three home matches in three days. MSU will host Western Michigan Friday at 6 p.m., and will host a doubleheader of action Sunday beginning at 10 a.m., against Milwaukee and continuing at 3 p.m., against Wright State. All matches will be held inside the MSU Indoor Tennis Facility and admission is free.
MSU took to the road for the first time this season last weekend as it traveled to Chicago to face UIC and then-No. 53 DePaul. Playing away from its home court, MSU fared well in its first match of the weekend against UIC. MSU won the doubles point and then claimed four of the six singles matches. The following day, MSU did not fare as well as it was swept by then-No. 53 DePaul, 7-0. MSU's split on the weekend moved the Spartans record to 7-2 overall.
Even though they were swept by DePaul, head coach Simone Jardim said her team has nothing to be discouraged about the loss and will use it as a learning experience.
"Playing good teams exposes the things we need to work on," she said. "We are capable, but it exposed some of the things we need to work on. We've still got quite a ways to go until we play Big Ten, we just need to keep progressing."
Jardim also noted a few takeaways her team will use as it serves through its non-conference schedule and volleys into conference play.
"In order to be ready for Big Ten, we're going to have to step up, literally step up," she said. "Not just in practice, but be able to push each other better. We as a team are very talented and we just need to make sure we are always using all of our weapons."
MSU continues to receive solid singles play all around. MSU is 39-15 in dual play in singles, including going 7-2 at each of the court one, two, five and six positions. The Spartans are also playing solid doubles, going 18-7 in dual play. MSU has won the doubles point in seven of its nine matches, going 6-1 in matches in which it has won the initial point.
With MSU's 7-2 record, it marks the fourth consecutive season in which the Spartans have started 7-2. Should MSU claim all three matches over the weekend and reach the double-digit win plateau, it would mark the earliest date and fewest amount of matches MSU has needed to reach that plateau. It took MSU 13 matches in the 2012-13 season before it tallied its 10th win on March 6, 2013.
Bucking the Broncos
Under Coach Jardim, MSU is 3-2 against Western Michigan and has won the last three meetings. The last meeting came last Feb. 22, 2013, and the Spartans outlasted the Broncos 4-3, in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Spartans and Broncos seem to enjoy tough matches against each other as four of the five meetings in the Coach Jardim era have been decided by a final score of 4-3 either way.
"It's always a tough match against Western no matter what," Jardim said. "They are a well-prepared team and they always come ready to play us. Mentally and physically we need to be ready for a fight."
Under 32nd year head coach Betsy Kuhle, Western Michigan is 8-2 on the season. Traveling to East Lansing will be the third road match of the season for the Broncos, having split a pair of road matches to open the season, losing to then-No. 21 Notre Dame on Jan. 18 and then bouncing back later that same day to defeat Valparaiso.
Nini Sujashvili leads the way in singles, posting an 8-2 record on the top court. She has also won her last five matches in a row. Kathleen Hawkins is ranked No. 117 nationally in singles and competes on the second and third courts. Hawkins is 1-1 against nationally ranked opponents and was as high as No. 55 earlier in the season.
In doubles, the Broncos post a 27-3 overall record as a team. Western Michigan has just one loss at 9-1 on the top court and are a perfect 10-0 on the third court. WMU has used 14 different doubles combinations in non-conference play.
The Panthers come into East Lansing with a 1-4 record under first-year head coach Greg Cromwell. The lone win for Milwaukee came against Drake and it has lost its last four matches in a row, including Iowa State, Wisconsin, DePaul and Marquette.
Under Coach Jardim, this will be the first meeting between these two schools.
Diana Tokar has played all five matches on the top singles court and is 1-4. As a team in dual play, the Panthers are just 7-23 in singles.
Tokar and Christina Colarossi make up the top doubles team and are 1-4. In doubles as a team, Milwaukee is 5-10.
About Wright State
Sean McCaffrey is in his sixth season leading the Raiders. Wright State is 2-5 this season, with wins over IUPUI and IPFW. They defeated IPFW on Feb. 15 to snap a four-match skid.
MSU will be facing Wright State for the first time in the Jardim era.
Linsey Verstrepen has played the six out of the seven matches on the top singles court and posts a 2-4 record when playing No. 1. Three different players have combined to go 4-2 on court two, the only of six singles courts in which the Raiders have a winning record.
In doubles, Wright State is 4-16 as a team in dual play. The team of Lauren Smith and Tori Turner have accounted for two of those wins, going 1-0 on the second court and 1-2 on the third court.
After this weekend, MSU is off for a weekend before it heads down to Tampa, Fla., for a pair of matches over the university's spring break. MSU will face Niagara on March 5 and Mercer on March 7.