Northwestern headed into the NCAA tournament looking to make some noise in Washington. The ‘Cats had just earned their 24th consecutive tournament bid, but would have had to upset a couple of squads to reach the quarterfinals, the program’s previous high-water mark. Unfortunately, Northwestern didn’t earn the chance to compete with the tenth-seeded Washington Huskies, falling to Princeton in the opening round, 4-1.
The Tigers opened the match by claiming the doubles point with wins at first and third doubles, before capitalizing on the point with a victory at fifth singles, building a quick 2-0 hole. Julie Byrne provided Northwestern with a sliver of hope after delivering a 6-3, 6-3 win at first singles, putting the match back in the balance.
That hope would be short-lived, however, as Princeton earned wins at third and fourth singles to complete a dominant victory. The Tigers proceeded to drop their second round match to Washington, 4-0.
NU finished the season at 15-11 (7-4), failing to meet the lofty expectations set by last year’s team, who won 23 matches and won the Big Ten regular season title. But the season had some exciting moments. Despite losing three of their top six from 2018, the ‘Cats earned four top-25 wins and dominated in Evanston with a 10-3 record at home.
While there is plenty of youth on this Northwestern team, they will also be losing some members. Rheeya Doshi and Lee Orr both played their final season for NU in 2019. The pair combined for 106 singles wins during their Northwestern careers.
Despite the losses, the team is set up fairly well for the 2019-20 season. Head coach Claire Pollard is bringing in the 16th-ranked recruiting class in the country next year. The class includes Briana Crowley, a top-20 high school senior, as well as Christina Hand, a top-50 senior and sister of current Wildcat Clarissa Hand.
There is no reason to believe that the ‘Cats will fail to earn their 25th consecutive tournament bid next year, but for now, they’ll be left to reflect on this year’s untimely exit.