Looking to rebound from two consecutive losses on its recent east coast trip, the University of Wisconsin women’s tennis team (2-3, 0-0) will host the nation’s top 15 teams at this weekend’s 22nd annual ITA Team Indoor Championships at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
This past weekend in Virginia, the Badgers dropped both of their matches to No. 63 Old Dominion and No. 24 William and Mary by a score of 5-2. Additionally, the team lost sophomore Alaina Trgovich to an ACL tear.
“That hurts you, especially when I was counting on her to play at the top of the lineup,” head coach Brian Fleishman said of losing Trgovich. “But I think everybody is realizing now, and we’re out of the denial stage that she’s not coming back this year and everybody has got to step up. So I think everybody has grown up a little bit quicker than was expected.”
However, there were a few bright spots for the team last weekend. Senior Liz Carpenter and freshman Angela Chupa upset William and Mary’s No. 37- ranked doubles team in an 8-3 defeat of Katarina Zoricic and Ragini Acharya. Carpenter and Chupa are now 2-0 together in the first doubles spot. As a result, the team is still looking forward to this weekend.
“Anything can happen on your home courts,” Fleishman said. “Nielsen is a little darker, you know, the courts are a little bit quicker. We’ll probably play Cal Berkeley in the first round, a West Coast team, an outdoor team. Anything can happen.”
Top competition comes to Madison
Leading the tough competition in Madison are the defending national champions — the No. 3 ranked UCLA Bruins — who are coached by the sister of tennis great Pete Sampras, Stella Sampras. Also, the Badgers will face No. 1 Northwestern, a Big Ten rival that also has the number one singles player in the nation, Maria Mosolova, on their roster.
Overall, 57 of the 128 single players participating this weekend are ranked among the nation’s top 125, and 30 of the 48 competing doubles teams are ranked in the top 50. The Badgers, however, do not seem phased.
“Well, I think any time you can host a tournament, it’s good for your kids to be able to play on their home courts, sleep in their own beds, be able go to class,” Fleishman said. “It’s a great opportunity; they get to play ranked players, ranked teams. You know, it’s very tough to get a ranked team to come here and play at Madison. Normally, we would have to go play them at their place. So again, I think it just provides a lot of opportunities for our players.”
The tough competition facing the Badgers this weekend can largely be attributed to the newly redesigned format of the ITA Championship. The Inter-Collegiate Tennis Association this year opened up the tournament in order to allow more teams to try to qualify. In recent years, the competition was more of an invitational based on the previous year’s rankings. Now, however, the championship is a qualifying event, as there were 15 regional events around the country earlier in the year, with four teams competing at each for a spot at this weekend’s tournament.
“This is the first year in 21 years that the top teams in the country have actually come here,” Fleishman said. “Usually it’s been regionally, each team, each region, had to be represented, no matter what the ranking of the team or the best team in that region was. So this is a really strong field. It’s going to be really good tennis out there.”