With the NCAA women’s tennis bracket released, the Tigers (19–3 overall, 7–0 Ivy) are set to take on No. 19 seed Illinois (21–5) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Lubbock, Texas. With the Tigers currently ranked No. 47 in the ITA and No. 24 in the USTA, they will be heading into a match as an underdog for the first time since March, when they took on then-ITA No. 46 William and Mary (17–9). The Tigers lost that match, and hope to reverse their fortunes against Illinois.
It will be the third meeting between Princeton and Illinois, with the other two occurring in the last decade. In the first meeting, the Tigers won a 4–3 match in Puerto Rico, and in 2012, the Tigers were defeated 4–0 in Alabama. Evaluating common opponents also yields an even matchup; the Tigers and Illini have matched up against six common opponents and have won against all those matchups.
Princeton, now attending its fourth NCAA tournament in the last five seasons and its eighth overall, will be counting on senior Katrine Steffensen and freshman Stephanie Schrage to lead the team to a tournament run. The two players have been instrumental in the Tigers’ success so far; both were named into the All-Ivy League team this season. Steffensen will be returning to the NCAA tournament for the third time and will look to find success in what may be her final match.
Princeton is coming off one of its best seasons ever. With 19 wins thus far, the team can tie a program record for most wins in a single season with the 2010 team if they get a victory this Friday and win the next match on Saturday. The Tigers also went undefeated in the Ivy League for the third time; the first under the current regime of players. Finally, the Tigers’ three losses this season the teams’ lowest since 2000, when they had two losses. Even if the Tigers add a fourth loss, it will still be the lowest since the mark set 18 years ago.
The match will feature coaches of the year going at each other; Illinois coach Evan Clark won the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award after turning a team that missed the NCAA Tournament with a 14–13 record into one that went 9–3 in the Big Ten, made it to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, and earned an at large bid into the NCAA Tournament. On the other side, Tiger head coach Laura Granville won her third Ivy League Coach of the Year Award in the past four seasons for Princeton’s performance this season.
The stage is set for what should be an exciting battle between two teams looking to make noise in the NCAA Tournament. Fans can follow along with live stats on the NCAA website. The match will start at 11 a.m. eastern time on Friday.