Northwestern tennis wins 15th straight Big Ten Title

Northwestern tennis wins 15th straight Big Ten Title

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Few programs in Big Ten history can match the prolonged dominance of the Northwestern women's tennis program. That tradition continued Sunday afternoon as the third-seeded Wildcats took down top-seeded Michigan 4-1, giving NU a Big Ten title for the 15th-consecutive season.

Dating back to 1999, it is the program's 14th Big Ten tournament title over a 15-year span. NU claimed the regular-season crown a year ago, but fell to Purdue in the semifinal round of the tournament, breaking their 13-year string. After a one-year hiatus, the tournament trophy will return to Evanston.

"Our team did a fantastic job all weekend," Northwestern head coach Claire Pollard said. "We had to beat three quality opponents and I think we played our best match of the year today in the most meaningful moment of the year."

In the regular-season meeting between the teams in Evanston - a 4-3 Michigan win - the Wolverines took the doubles point. The Wildcats turned things around on Sunday, though.

At No. 1, 14th-ranked Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton went up an early break on Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender, but the Michigan duo turned things around as they posted an 8-4 win in the first match to finish. However, at No. 3, Kate Turvy and Belinda Niu surged out to a 7-2 lead before taking down Kristen Dodge and Ronit Yurovsky 8-5.

The red-hot pairing of Alicia Barnett and Veronica Corning finished things off for the Wildcats as they earned their 11th-straight win by jumping ahead early en route to an 8-5 victory over Mimi Nguyen and Sarah Lee that gave the 'Cats the doubles point.

NU got off to a good start in singles play. Needing three victories to claim the championship, the Wildcats won the first set in four of six matches, surging in front at Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 6.

Despite dropping the first set to Corning, 25th-ranked Bektas rallied back to post a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win that evened the match 1-1. Turvy, ranked 51st, dropped her opening set to 48th-ranked Yurovsky 6-3, but the senior came back to dominate the next two sets, winning 6-2 and 6-1 at No. 2 to put Northwestern back in front.

Moments later, Hamilton was able to finish off a straight-sets victory over Dodge, winning 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) to bring the Wildcats within one victory of the title.

It couldn't have been more fitting than to have Mushrefova clinch the win for the Wildcats. The senior emotional leader of the team had only dropped one set to a Big Ten opponent all season long, but she was forced to come from behind after Bolender took their opening set of their match, 6-3. Mushrefova was one game from defeat in the second set, trailing 5-4, but rallied back to win each of the next three games, forcing a decisive third set. She was able to outlast Bolender in the final set, winning 6-4 to clinch yet another title for Northwestern.

Coupled with a 4-1 win over second-seeded Nebraska in Saturday's semifinal round, the Wildcats were able to avenge both of their regular-season defeats to Big Ten opponents.

Northwestern will learn its postseason destination Tuesday when the NCAA tournament field is announced.

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