The edge: Buffalo vs. Northwestern
A breakdown of which team holds the advantage heading into the NCAA Tournament
It will be the Bulls against the Wildcats in the first round of the women’s tennis NCAA Tournament. Buffalo will take on Northwestern Friday, May 11 at 4 p.m. in Evanston, Illinois, in what will be the third program appearance for the Bulls.
Buffalo (17-3, 8-0 Mid-American Conference) travels to Illinois for the program’s second-straight NCAA Tournament. The No. 2 overall seed Ohio State Buckeyes (14-8, 7-4 Big Ten) eliminated Buffalo in the first round last year. Buffalo heads into the tournament after tying the program high of 17 wins on the season and is second in the nation with a 14 match win streak. See who has the edge in each matchup in The Spectrum’s breakdown:
Doubles play has been Buffalo's weakness all season. The Bulls won five straight doubles points before losing each of them during the MAC tournament. Northwestern (21-5, 11-0 B1G) has gone a combined 91-19 in doubles matches this season. The first doubles team of senior Erin Larner and senior Maddie Lipp have gone 17-3 and 9-1 in their last 10 matches.
The third doubles team of sophomore Emel Abibula and junior Arianna Paules Aldrey have the best chance of taking their set against Northwestern. The duo has gone a team-best 13-4 in doubles this season. They will be matched up against junior Rheeya Doshi and sophomore Julie Byrne. Buffalo will have to win every serve in order to keep it competitive.
Top three singles: Northwestern
First singles will be played between Buffalo junior Chantal Martinez Blanco and Northwestern’s Larner. Larner is ranked No. 38 in the country in singles play and is one of three Wildcats to make the All-Big 10 team. Blanco was named to that All-MAC first team after going 23-7 overall on the year. Still, expect Larner to win in two sets and gain the point for Northwestern.
The second matchup will put junior Tanja Stojanovska against Lipp. Stojanovska has been a first team All-MAC member every single year and has gone 10-3 on the second court this season. Lipp has split time at both the second and third courts this year becoming the No. 78 ranked singles player in the nation and has amassed over 75 wins in her career. Lipp and senior Alex Chatt were also the No. 1 doubles pair at some point this year, giving her the advantage.
Senior Lolade Ogungbesan has the best chance to upset in her matchup against junior Lee Or. Ogungbesen is coming off a terrific MAC Tournament where she won both of her matches and clinched the final point for Buffalo to win the championship. Ogungbesan was named the MAC Tournament most outstanding player and should give Or a difficult time.
Bottom three singles: Buffalo
Abibula, junior Sanjana Sudhir and Aldrey will be playing on the fourth, fifth and sixth singles courts, respectively. Those three will matchup with Byrne, Chatt and Doshi.
Abibula has found success on both the third and fourth courts with a combined record of 15-4. Byrne was defeated in her most recent matchup in two sets.
Sudhir and Chatt are matching up on court five. Both players are undefeated when playing fifth singles. Sudhir has gone 9-0 on the court and 21-3 for her season, a consistent point getter for Buffalo. Chatt has done the same, going 7-0 in her time. This match will go three sets and might not even finish if either team gets four points first.
In her first season at Buffalo, Aldrey has dominated court six. Going 12-1 in matches this past season, she should have the advantage against Doshi who has mainly played doubles and competed in no singles matches during the conference play.
Nathaniel Mendelson is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.