Dasso's Illini enjoying turnaround

Dasso's Illini enjoying turnaround

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Illinois has become an NCAA tournament regular in women’s tennis under Michello Dasso.

No wonder the seventh-year coach was on edge entering today’s Big Ten tournament at Indiana.

“We’re on the bubble. It’s crunch time,” Dasso said. “Honestly, it would be devastating if we don’t make it.”

Illinois survived its first test at the Big Ten tournament, beating Michigan State 4-1.

The Illini have made the field of 64 in four of the last five seasons. Making another appearance so critical is the fact that Illinois is hosting the NCAA Championships in May.

“You certainly want to get in to give yourself a chance by getting in the tournament,” she said.

If it makes the cut — the bracket is announced Tuesday — Illinois will open on the road.

That’s OK with Dasso, who a month ago wasn’t thinking much about postseason play.

The Illini were 6-8 and in a four-match losing streak.

“We fought back,” she said. “Several weeks ago, we laid it on the line to them. We told them what we had to do and where we were at, and the girls responded fairly well.”

The Illini (14-10) closed the regular season with seven wins in nine chances. They’re the fifth seed at the Big Ten tournament.

Today's win sends Illinois against No. 4 Purdue, which handed the Illini a Senior Day loss (5-2) on Sunday. That kept the Illini on the NCAA tournament bubble, Dasso said.

“We were a shoo-in would we have won Sunday,” she said. “Now we have business to take care of.”

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