Illini freshmen shine on NCAA stage

Illini freshmen shine on NCAA stage

LUBBOCK, Texas — Stepping into the NCAA tournament for the first time can often be daunting.

The freshmen on the Illinois women's tennis proved to be the exception.

After the Illini dropped the doubles point to Princeton, freshmen Mia Rabinowitz, Emilee Duong and Asuka Kawai all delivered in singles play to set the stage Friday afternoon in a match that ended with Illinois clinching a 4-3 first-round victory — only the fourth NCAA tournament win in program history.

Kawai won 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, Rabinowitz delivered a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 4 singles and Duong also won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 6 singles for Illinois in its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.

"I am so proud of the girls and how they handled the conditions," Illinois coach Evan Clark said. "We didn't play our best tennis, but the team came through with a gutsy win."

Jaclyn Switkes at No. 1 singles and Sasha Belaya at No. 5 singles lost to even the match at 3, but Illini junior Daniela Pedraza-Novak delivered with a three-set 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory at No. 4 singles to clinch the match.

"Extremely happy for Daniela," Clark said. "She has been in those situations before, and she got over the hump and came through."

The Illini (22-5) will face No. 11 Texas Tech (21-6) at 1 p.m. today for a spot in next week's NCAA championships in Winston-Salem, N.C. A win against the host Red Raiders would also give Illinois the most wins in a single season in program history.

"We are really excited to play Texas Tech," Clark said, "and excited for the opportunity."

In baseball

Wolverines go down. Illinois seized an opportunity to gain ground in the Big Ten race on Friday when it rolled to a 10-3 victory over host Michigan, which entered the day tied with Minnesota atop the conference standings.

A five-run second inning helped Illinois (28-16, 12-7 Big Ten) hand Michigan (31-15, 14-4) its biggest loss of the season in the series opener.

Bren Spillane hit two home runs to reach 20 for the season, becoming only the second Illini to ever reach that mark.

Ben Troike also scored three runs, extending his reached-base streak to 49 games.

In softball

Illini eliminated. Illinois endured a six-hour rain delay only to lose 2-1 in walk-off fashion to Indiana on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament in Madison, Wis.

Emily Oestreich allowed just three hits and struck out four before Taylor Uden homered in the bottom of the seventh to advance the Hoosiers to today's semifinals.

The Illini (37-18) will have to wait until Sunday night to learn their NCAA Tournament fate.

In track and field

Two advance. Senior David Kendziera will look to defend his 400-meter hurdles title at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Sunday's finals after posting the best overall time (49.69 seconds) in Friday's preliminaries in Bloomington, Ind.

Devin Quinn also qualified for the finals after clocking a seventh-best time of 21.28 seconds in the 200-meter dash.

Matsen Dziedzic took ninth in the men's hammer throw finals with a personal-best 63.31 meters. Sara McKeeman tallied the only points for the women's team (seventh in the pole vault).