After sweeping Marquette in a home match last spring, Wisconsin women’s tennis head coach Patti Henderson attributed part of the team’s success to a grueling duel against the Wildcats just days before.”I was pleased with it,” Henderson said. “One of the things we had looked for was trying to carry the level of play from Northwestern into today’s match.”This year, things will be different.The No. 50 Badgers meet Marquette in Milwaukee Friday before traveling to Evanston Saturday to take on No. 8 Northwestern, meaning both matches will be played on the road in ascending order of difficulty. Wisconsin’s lineup also looks radically different, with all six positions having been re-assigned since the end of last season and only four veterans slated to play, two of them sophomores.Should the Badgers’ doubles lineup go untweaked following last weekend, though, UW’s top duo will be the same pairing of Caitlin Burke and Nicole Beck that enjoyed a momentous start against the Wildcats last February, going up 2-0 in the second-flight, eight-game pro set before dropping a tie-break match 8-7(5).Beck and teammate Chelsea Nusslock (also then a freshman) stole the day’s only two points against the Wildcats last spring, with the former player’s victory having come via a third-set match-breaker.”It was a good match for all of us because we all did better than what we did last time against them. And Chelsea pulled out with a match. … I pulled out with another match,” Beck said a year ago. “We’re just going to build from this.”Still, what a difference a year can make. Beck is no longer holding down fort on the fifth flight, having graduated all the way up to the team’s penultimate spot. And Nusslock has bumped up from the sixth spot to the fourth, also facing a clearly heightened level of competition.Anchoring the squad at the top spot this year is No. 32 Burke, who pulled off a quick victory against her Iowa State opponent last weekend following a fiercely contested trifecta of losses against top-ranked opponents at the USTA/ITA Indoor Championships the previous week.”It felt good to win after losing three matches in a row last weekend,” Burke commented following the team’s defeat of Iowa State.On the heels of that 6-1 victory over the Cyclones, the Badgers have moved up a spot in the rankings this week, improving from a No. 51 position. The team still has some territory to cover, however, if it is to revisit its preseason mark of No. 34, and a win over the Wildcats on Saturday would greatly aid them in that endeavor.
Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm When Komal Safdar began the final set of her match, she was aware of what was at stake.A victory would seal a come-from-behind win for Syracuse, and secure the team’s second victory over a ranked opponent in the past week. A loss would elongate the team’s early season struggles. Instead of faltering at the end of the match, Safdar was determined to put all of the pressure on No. 25 Florida State. And her aggression paid off, as the Orange stunned the Seminoles on the heels of her racket. “This was a huge match for us all-around,” Safdar said. “Everyone competed and everyone is believing in each other despite how we started the season.”After losing the doubles point, Syracuse (2-8, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) rallied to win four of the six singles matches to defeat Florida State (8-5 3-2) 4-3 on Friday at Drumlins Country Club. The Orange was on the ropes in its final two singles matches, yet managed to secure the victory. Safdar clinched the win for the Orange by defeating Majlena Pedersen in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFreshman Valeria Salazar started the rally for the Orange after her 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, win over Kristina Schleich in three sets. After losing a 5-2 lead in the final set, Salazar kept her composure and won the next two points en route to the victory.But Salazar was quick to give Safdar the credit for the team’s win. “She was determined to win,” Salazar said. “She had the momentum and the confidence to win, and we were there supporting her the whole way.”Salazar’s victory set the table for Safdar to decide the team’s fate in the final match. After Safdar lost the first set to Pedersen, it appeared that the Seminoles’ talent would finally prove too much for the Orange to overcome. The outbreak of chants from the Syracuse bench and home crowd drowned out Florida State’s momentum in the match, though. The home-court advantage fueled Safdar to respond in the second set with a 6-3 victory.“I knew everyone here in the Syracuse community was supporting me,” Safdar said. “The crowd was bringing energy that you aren’t going to get away from home.”The last set between both competitors was a microcosm of the day. Safdar managed to gain to gain a pivotal one-point lead in the third set before the two exchanged serving wins. The Syracuse junior used her versatility to cover every inch of the tennis court. Eventually, Safdar’s effort took its toll on Pedersen, who was unable to earn the final point on Friday afternoon.The players immediately rushed to Safdar, screaming loudly and lifting her on their shoulders. Syracuse head coach Shelley George joined in on the celebration, recognizing the importance of this hard fought win.“I definitely think it was a team effort. We let Florida State know that they were in for a fight,” George said. “This is our house. Go out and own the court.”Syracuse now has a two-week break before traveling to face the Miami Hurricanes on March 21 — which will be an opportunity for the team to rest both mentally and physically from conference play.But Safdar said the team won’t stay content with the recent success for long. When asked to describe the effort of her teammates, she pegged this Syracuse team as one that can start doing damage in the future. “In my third year with this program, this is the most fighting team out here,” Safdar said. “Every single person on our team is a warrior.” Comments