The Wisconsin women’s tennis team concluded their non-conference season on Saturday finishing with a record of 9-3 in non-conference play.
The Badgers’ early season success included a sweep of all the Wisconsin schools on their schedule – Green Bay, Milwaukee and Marquette – and capped off the non-conference schedule with a 7-0 sweep of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Head coach Brian Fleishman is happy with the way his team has started the year and hopes they can learn from their losses.
“We competed well at times,” Fleishman said. “I think we let some opportunities slip away, but I think we learned from those matches that we didn’t take advantage of and I think we can become a better team from those losses.”
With the non-conference schedule out of the way, the Badgers now set their sights on their Big Ten campaign that begins this weekend at Michigan.
The Big Ten will prove to be a demanding test for UW featuring three teams – Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska – in the top 25 of the ITA rankings this year and eight schools in the top 75.
Fleishman appreciates just how strong the Big Ten is this season.
“[The Big Ten] is a competitive conference this year,” Fleishman said. “It’s much deeper than it was last year. After Northwestern and Michigan, it’s kind of who’s going to play better on that given day.”
The Big Ten holds two top-25 singles players in Emina Bektas from the University of Michigan and Kate Turvy from Northwestern University. Bektas has only lost one match in the season and has already beaten the No. 8 singles player in the country, Chelsey Gullickson from the University of Georgia, this year.
The conference breaks into the rankings in doubles as well with Northwestern and Michigan both having a pair in the top 25.
Wisconsin senior Angela Chupa is going into her third season of Big Ten play and understands that the Big Ten as a whole is improved from just a season ago.
“[The Big Ten] is very competitive this year,” Chupa said. “Every team has gotten better. In the past there has been just a couple of dominant teams and everyone else, this year every team has a chance for an upset. We’re just going to beat up on each other.”
Wisconsin has not had a winning season in Big Ten play under Fleishman’s four seasons but came dangerously close last year, earning a 5-5 mark against conference foes.
The Badgers have only played one conference game this year against the University of Minnesota, which resulted in a 5-2 loss.
Fleishman knew his team missed an opportunity to win the first conference match this year.
“We let the Minnesota match slip away from us,” Fleishman said. “[Minnesota] is a much better team this year than they were last year and they played really well against us.”
In the loss to the Gophers, freshman Sarah Loebel got her first taste of conference play, losing at the No. 3 singles spot. Loebel has a winning record this year in singles matches at 7-4 but admits that while her first Big Ten match was a little intimidating initially, she eventually enjoyed the challenge her first taste of conference play produced.
“I was really nervous,” Loebel said. “But the match was really exciting, I thought. And I hope we get some good wins in the Big Ten.”
Wisconsin hopes that their early season success will lead to continued success in the gauntlet that is the Big Ten conference.
Chupa knows the matches are going to be tough but the only thing that she and her teammates can do is play as hard as they can and hope that they come out on top.
“We will have to battle,” Chupa said. “A lot of these matches are going to be really tough. Whoever fights the hardest and wants it the most is going to come out on top. We can never give up, just keep fighting even if you are down because you can always turn it around.
“We just need to have fun. That’s what it comes down to – when we are having fun, we play our best.”