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MSU women's tennis clinches victory against Illinois State

February 26, 2023

Michigan State Women's Tennis defeated Illinois State in the final game of their home stand before going on the road for their next four games.

After some heated matches, Michigan State women’s tennis got the upper hand against Illinois State, winning 4-1.

This Sunday’s match followed a 4-3 loss against Xavier and a 5-2 win against Chicago State on Friday.

Junior Ayshe Can and sophomore Liisa Vehvilainen seamlessly defeated the Redbirds' duo of senior Tara Damnjanovic and junior Tijana Zlatanovic 6-2.

During her doubles match, Vehvilainen said she didn’t feel like she was playing that great but Can was “rocking it today” and that made her job easier.

MSU had to work hard for the second doubles point as graduate student Nicole Conard and freshman Marley Lambert fell behind 5-3 and ultimately lost the set 7-6 after an intense back-and-forth against Illinois State's senior Alexandra Abyasova and freshman Silvia Pomarolli.

With the Spartans needing one more win to secure the doubles point, they were depending on freshman Juliette Nask and senior Dagmar Zdrubecka to come out with a win against junior Elena Jankulovska and freshman Nevena Kolarevic. The MSU duo powered through and ended up on top with a 7-6 win.


MSU Women's Tennis players cheer on their teammates during their contest against Illinois State on Feb. 26, 2023.

Heading into the singles matches, Nask got the job done first with a first-set win of 6-2 against her opponent Pomarolli and a second-set win of 6-3.

Conard was handed her second loss of the day, losing the first set 6-3 and the second set 6-4 against Illinois State's Kolarevic, who dominated the match.

Illinois State's Zlatanovic and MSU’s Vehvilainen fought hard during the first set with Vehvilainen gaining the advantage 7-5. She ultimately came away with the win and put MSU back in the lead after finishing off the second set 6-2.

Vehvilainen was proud of her win.


Sophomore Liisa Vehvilainen during her singles match against Illinois State on Feb. 26, 2023.

“Yeah, I felt really good, actually,” she said. “The match kind of started off, not that well, it was really tricky. I was down on several occasions, but I guess eventually I was able to kind of break her a little. And I just, I just killed it in a second.”

Second singles, fourth singles and sixth singles played into an intense third set. Illinois looked to be working their way back with Abyasova getting the upper hand over MSU’s Can 6-4 in the first set and Damnjanovic cruising past Lambert 6-2. 

MSU’s freshman Issey Purser narrowly defeated Illinois State's Jankulovska 7-5 in the first set. 

Lambert and Can hadn’t given up yet, securing 6-4 and 6-3 second-set wins respectively. Purser tied up with Jankulovska, losing her second set 6-3. 

Things seemed to be looking up for the Spartans with Can stopping her set at 4-1 and Purser gaining 3-0. 

Ultimately it was Lambert who secured the team a win after finding her rhythm with a great third set, 6-3.

Head Coach Kim Bruno was impressed with Lambert’s win. 


Freshman Marley Lambert plays against Illinois State on Feb. 26, 2023.

“Honestly, Marley's been a weekend warrior for us, you know, and it's not because she had a good game,” Bruno said. "It's because she had not a good game and found ways to overcome that and still win. That's really difficult to do.”

During practice, Bruno said they’ve been working on getting in the point. 

“Getting in the point, once we're in the point, we're very dangerous, but man, it's when we give when we give away those first, plus one balls with nice returns,” Bruno said. “Go for too much too early. So just hanging on the point making better decisions, controlling the baseline, all those things. I thought they did a good job of today and even when we were down in some sets, what I was proud of is that we came back and I mean we could have swept all these so it was good to see.”

After Friday’s first match Vehvilainen was a little disappointed in her performance and tried to do better Sunday.

“Energy was better, I was more energetic,”  Vehvilainen said. “I was making a lot more balls and I think I was more aggressive as well. So that was definitely a change from, from previous matches.” 

She is looking to improve her serve and overall being more aggressive ahead of their match against FIU on March 7.

Bruno said she’s going to be working with the team on controlling what they can control and getting some practice in. 

“We’re not going to be able to control the sun and the wind and all that,” Bruno said. “Doing what we can within our own games, keep playing to our strengths, those little things we're just going to keep hammering them and I think we're gonna, when we get down there, we're just gonna have to hit a ton.” 


Freshman Juliette Nask celebrates during her doubles match against Illinois State on Feb. 26, 2023.


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