After riding a three-game win streak into the Big Ten Tournament, the team aimed to avenge an (at the time) upset loss to Michigan. To compete with the Wolverines in this year’s semifinal, the Wildcats would first have to get through the fourth seed, Ohio State, in the opening round.
The match opened with the ‘Cats taking the doubles point thanks to wins at second and third doubles, before Clarissa Hand checked in with a quick 6-2, 6-3 victory at first singles to give Northwestern a 2-0 lead. Julie Byrne continued the momentum at second singles, earning another resounding win, 6-4 6-2. Caroline Pozo claimed the winning point at fifth singles, using a 6-4 6-4 victory to give Northwestern a shot at redemption against Michigan.
Unfortunately, the match didn’t quite go as planned. Michigan barely eked out the doubles point, before handling the ‘Cats convincingly in singles. Wins at first and fourth singles gave Michigan a 3-0 lead, but a win at sixth singles for Hannah McColgan gave NU a sliver of hope. That was quickly dashed when former NCAA singles champion Brienne Minor clinched the match for the Wolverines.
Northwestern received positive news soon after, though, learning that it would be travelling to Seattle to face Princeton in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The postseason berth was the 24th consecutive appearance for Northwestern (head coach Claire Pollard has led them to their last 21), who will be joined by Washington and Army in the region.
NU will play its opening match on Friday, and would play on Saturday with a win.
Northwestern entered the Big Ten Tournament a single game over .500, meaning the ‘Cats needed a massive effort to earn a tournament bid. Northwestern’s path ran through the top three seeds in the bracket, but first the seventh seeded Wildcats had to deal with Purdue in the first round.
Despite dropping the doubles point against the Boilermakers, Northwestern won the first three singles points, giving the team a 3-1 advantage, but Purdue fought back with wins at first and fourth singles to even the match at three, leaving the match to sixth singles and Trice Pickens. The freshman fought hard but dropped a three set battle, ending NU’s season.
Northwestern will be losing three seniors, but will return eight members of the team. It’ll be an uphill battle for the team to return to the NCAA tournament next year. The ‘Cats last qualified in 2017, falling in the second round to California.