For the Wisconsin women’s tennis team, its final weekend at home could not have gone any better.
The Badgers ended their regular season with a dramatic, emotional 4-3 win over Illinois Sunday. After a strong 4-3 win over Iowa Saturday, the Badgers came out ready to continue the success against the Fighting Illini, a team they haven’t beaten in the last four years.
“[This is] probably the best weekend I’ve had since I’ve been here,” head coach Brian Fleishman said. “For four years, this is what I’ve been waiting for, so this was fun today.”
Starting off strong, Wisconsin won the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles matches to win the doubles point.
Despite losing the No. 2 doubles match, sophomore Hannah Berner and senior Jessica Seyferth kept things close, losing the match 9-7.
“I think we played great,” Berner said. “Their second doubles team is really good. I was happy that we got the doubles point, and I was really proud of how [Seyferth] played. It was a great fight. Overall, I think we were both happy afterward and used the momentum of the point and forgot about our loss.”
Leading the match 1-0 into singles play, UW started singles play off determined to keep the momentum going.
Holding the No. 5 spot for the Badgers, junior Aleksandra Markovic fought to a third set after losing her first set 7-5. Winning her second set 6-4 and forcing a playoff for the match point – ultimately a win for Wisconsin – Markovic tussled with Illinois’ Leigh Finnegan.
Tied at five-all in the playoff, Markovic gained a 6-5 advantage, and after a long volley, forced Finnegan to miss sealing the set and match for herself and her team.
At each spot, the Badgers quickly gained a game point advantage over the Illini. But before they could close out a set, Illinois fought back.
“It was great,” Berner said of the win. “I looked in every girl’s eyes, and every girl believed that she could win. I think this was weekend for us to go into the Big Ten Tournament.”
Seyferth struggled at the No. 4 spot, losing two sets, 6-1, 6-2. Seyferth was honored before the game and failed to win either of her matches Sunday after sealing the win for the Badgers Saturday against Iowa.
“You might think that, but she wanted the team to win,” Fleishman said after being asked if Seyferth was disappointed about her results. “That’s what she’s been all about for four years.”
With freshman Jenny Hois out with an injury, redshirt junior Alaina Trgovich held the No. 1 spot for the Badgers. Finishing right after Seyferth, Trgovich lost two sets, 6-3 and 6-4, putting Illinois on top 2-1.
Fleishman was not entirely surprised by the quick losses at the No. 1 and No. 4 spots.
“The ones that finished quickly, both of those players they lost to were really good players – Smutko and White from Illinois – but I knew the matchup at the other spots were good and we could be competitive with them,” Fleishman said.
Wisconsin appeared to be losing momentum, but Berner held strong at the No. 3 spot against Illinois’ Allison Falkin. Winning two sets, 6-4, 6-2, Berner helped reignite the momentum for the Badgers.
“I’m really happy that I was able to play well at [No.] 3 and show the team that we can all win at every spot,” Berner said. “I’m coming off a loss from [Saturday], but the team won. [Sunday] I definitely wanted to get a singles point to make it a little easier for my team. I think when I came back and got the momentum and we got the second point, I think the team really used the momentum of my match to make them believe that they could win theirs.”
Junior Angela Chupa continued to carry the momentum through her third set at the No. 6 spot.
Chupa lost her first set quickly, 6-2 to UI’s Annie McCarthy. Much like Markovic, Chupa fought through a back-and-forth match, finishing off the last two sets, 6-4 and 6-3, putting the Badgers ahead 3-2.
“I saw that Jess lost and Hannah came through. I wanted to do it for the team and Jess on her senior day,” Chupa said. “I just didn’t really think about the result; I just played for myself and played for the team. I ended up on top, so it was a good feeling.”
Led by Berner, Chupa and Markovich, the Badgers showed they can win from all any spot in the lineup.
“It’ll give us a lot of confidence in the lower part of our lineup, which really wasn’t as strong earlier in the season, but now I think we’re going into these matches and we believe in everybody no matter what spot they’re playing,” Chupa said. “It’s definitely a huge confidence builder.
“The girls know that they can do it even if they’re down – they can come back and win in three sets. It shows the fight of the girls, which is great.”