Normalcy is returning to Big Ten women’s tennis. There is no longer a conference bubble, and teams are free to schedule whomever they want outside of conference play. This is a new opportunity for the Boilermakers, as they have shown promise during the fall to bounce back from a disappointing 2021. The new blood is already here: they just have to adapt to the college game.
There were some positives, but it was certainly a disappointing season as a whole. Based on how Purdue has recruited and the relative weakness of the Big Ten in women’s tennis, the Boilermakers probably should have earned a winning record and, depending on a few breaks, made the NCAA Tournament. However, this team was firmly placed in the bottom half of the conference and was nowhere near the NCAA Tournament. A disappointing exit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament where Purdue clawed back from an early deficit but fell agonizingly short was just extra frustration in a season full of it.
The Team/Arrivals & Departures:
The Boilermakers took a couple of key losses over the past offseason as Ena Babic and Zala Dovnik ran out of eligibility. Babic had been Purdue’s #1 singles player and a cog on the top doubles pairing, while Zala Dovnik was a reasonably consistent winner in the middle of the lineup. They are the lone two players in Purdue history to have never lost to Indiana during their collegiate careers. Zeynep Naz Ozturk, who usually played near the bottom of the singles and doubles lineup, is also no longer listed on the roster. Coach Glitz responded to these losses by bringing in what looks to be a solid recruiting class. For what it’s worth, the freshmen performed well during the ITA Ohio Valley Regionals, so there is hope that some redistribution of the lineup will produce more wins. There are also veterans who are looking to affirm their spots: Csilla Fodor was a strong #2 option and should move into the #1 singles spot without too much difficulty, Seira Shimizu hung around #3 and #4 singles, and Rut Galindo and Nathalia Wolf Gasparin usually played in the bottom third of the singles lineup.
Schedule and Predictions:
The start of the season is soft, but there will also be some challenging opponents, some of which are faced away from Schwartz Tennis Center to help prepare the ladies for Big Ten play. There are some more mid-major opponents just before the start of conference play to hopefully boost the team’s record and confidence as they begin their Big Ten quest.
January 16: vs Cincinnati
Last year: 6-10, 0-4 American Athletic, No NCAA Appearance
It was a disappointing season for Cincinnati, as they did not win a single conference match and lost a couple of close matches that could have turned their record to a more respectable level. They lose a couple of important doubles pieces, but their singles are relatively unaffected by departures. This should be a nice tune-up match for Purdue to get in shape.
January 16: vs IUPUI
Last year: 2-12, 0-8 Horizon League, No NCAA Appearance
It has been years since IUPUI has been good at women’s tennis, and after last year, where their only wins came against Depauw, there is nowhere to go but upward. They’ll probably be better than last year, but Purdue should still easily win this matchup, probably with a few starters resting. Losing this match should be considered a fireable offense.
January 22: vs Xavier
Last year: 17-4, 3-0 Big East, NCAA Round of 64 Appearance
Xavier was one of the best mid-majors in the country last season, earning a #3 seed in the Evanston pod. However, they had a noticeable lack of success against Power Six opponents, with zero wins against anyone from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Twelve, Big Ten, Ivy League, Pacific-12 Conference, or Southeastern Conference in three attempts. Almost all their major contributors from last season are back, and they also bring in Anne-Sophie Courteau from West Virginia as a graduate transfer, so this is a veteran team. There is upset potential if Purdue is sloppy, but while the match could be close, I trust Coach Glitz to make sure the team is ready for this matchup and the players to execute when necessary.
January 29: vs Bowling Green State
Last year: 13-7, 9-5 Mid-American, No NCAA Appearance
Bowling Green State had a fairly solid year last season, finishing at 9-5 in conference play and tying for third, which is the best showing they have had in a few years. However, many of the players who helped push the Falcons to that level ran out of eligibility, so this will probably be a rebuilding year. Purdue should leverage the advantage they have at the top of the singles lineup to win this match.
January 30: vs Saint Louis
Last year: 7-7, 2-0 Atlantic 10, No NCAA Appearance
Last year, the Billikens were an average to above-average team within a fairly weak conference, and they fell a few wins short of an NCAA berth. In their match against Missouri, the lone opponent from a power conference that they faced, they got hammered, so that gives me confidence that Purdue should be able to win this match without too many issues.
February 5: @Tulsa
Last year: 15-7, 5-2 American Athletic, No NCAA Appearance
The Golden Hurricane was a force to be reckoned with in the American Athletic Conference in 2021. They had a solid year over the regular season, and they pushed for a conference tournament title before falling a bit short. However, despite this, they were not offered an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. It is always unfortunate to miss out on a shot for an NCAA title, but this may hurt a bit more, since Tulsa loses quite a bit of their 2021 production, including their top singles player and their top doubles pairing. Honestly, this is a match that could go either way, but I will pick with home court in this matchup.
February 11: @Notre Dame
Last year: 11-13, 5-9 Atlantic Coast, No NCAA Tournament
This will be Purdue’s first matchup against a Power Six opponent, and while it is a winnable matchup, it will not be easy. Notre Dame had a fairly forgettable season, getting bounced in the second round of the ACC Tournament and not being invited to the NCAA Tournament. They lose Cameron Corse and Ally Bojczuk, both of whom were among their best players in singles and doubles, but all the other major contributors return. Unfortunately, I have not seen enough from Purdue in the past few years to pick them in a matchup like this one.
February 13: vs Iowa State
Last year: 14-8, 4-4 Big Twelve, NCAA Round of 32
For a few years, Iowa State was the butt of jokes, as their women’s tennis team was either the worst or among the worst team in the Power Six. However, Boomer Saia changed that when he arrived. He recruited heavily in Asia, and he was able to build a strong team in Ames. The five top-50 wins last season are the only such wins in school history, and they even made their first ever NCAA Tournament Appearance. Almost everyone from that team returns, so they could be a serious threat in the Big Twelve. Even though Iowa State has been much better at home than they have on the road, I’d say Purdue likely falls a bit short in this matchup.
February 18: vs Washington
Last year: 15-8, 5-5 Pacific 12, No NCAA Appearance
This is the last major threat before Big Ten play begins. Washington was a decent team within the Pac-12 last season, but they were snubbed from an NCAA berth. They lose their #3 singles player, who was also one of their best doubles players, but bring in a key transfer from Washington State who should slide right into that position. Since the Huskies are traveling a long distance, an upset is possible if they cannot proverbially find their footing, but I’d say they have advantages in talent and experience.
February 20: vs Depaul
Last year: 11-5, 3-1 Big East, No NCAA Appearance
Overall, it was a pretty strong season from Depaul last season, but they fell short in a few critical matches for bigger prizes. They lose Aspasia Avgeri from the top of their singles lineup, but everyone else is back, and they also add freshmen and a transfer. This is an experienced team that could pull an upset if the Boilermakers aren’t careful, but their struggles against Power Six competition last year tell me that Purdue should have the upper hand.
February 27: vs Butler
Last year: 6-10, 1-2 Big East, No NCAA Appearance
Things may be looking up a bit, but there is still more work to do for Butler. They were not a good team last year, but they didn’t really embarrass themselves either. They lose a couple of players from last year’s team, but they bring in a large freshman class and all of the other main contributors. Ultimately, I just don’t think they are at the level yet to challenge Purdue.
February 27: vs Illinois State
Last year: 17-8, 5-0 Missouri Valley, No NCAA Appearance
This matchup is the last nonconference bout before Big Ten play starts, and there could be some upset potential if Purdue looks past the Redbirds. This team did quite well in the regular season in 2021, but they were upset in the Missouri Valley Tournament semifinals and found themselves outside of the NCAA Tournament. They were picked by the league coaches to win the conference this season, and a Big Ten win would be a nice feather in the cap. The team loses some players in the middle of their singles lineup, but that is all. Purdue has the advantage in talent however, and I expect them to use it to win this match.
March 19: @Michigan State
Last year: 7-12, 6-10 Big Ten, No NCAA Appearance
The Boilermaker loss to Michigan State last season was one of the most infuriating results of that season. If that match gets replayed nine more times, Purdue wins six or seven of them. Michigan State had a couple of other good wins that season, but there were also some baffling losses. The Spartans lose Samantha Memije, but every other major contributor returns. This match honestly could go either direction, but with Purdue’s infusion of freshmen, I will say that Purdue avenges last season with a win.
March 20: @Michigan
Last year: 19-4, 15-1 Big Ten, NCAA Sweet Sixteen
This is the definition of a "sharpie loss." Michigan was a dominant team within the conference, and they even made the Sweet Sixteen. This match is in Ann Arbor, and while Michigan loses Chiara Lommer and Bella Lorenzini, they still have enough firepower with their remaining crew to be a major force in the Big Ten. I would be very happy if Purdue wins this match, but I am certainly not expecting it.
March 26: vs Nebraska
Last year: 11-6, 11-5 Big Ten, No NCAA Appearance
The Cornhuskers had a solid season, and they were on their way to an NCAA berth, but a couple of rivalry losses to Iowa and a bad loss to Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament derailed any chance that they had. Overall, it was a pretty young team, so they will have more experience to work with this season. They lose Claire Reifeis and Hayley Haakenstad, but everyone else returns. With this match in West Lafayette, Purdue could win, but I’m not convinced yet.
March 27: vs Iowa
Last year: 14-8, 12-4 Big Ten, No NCAA Appearance
Iowa probably had a pretty good case for an NCAA appearance, but they were spurned by the selection committee. With that in mind, they will probably be wanting to take care of business and play well enough to force the committee to choose them, and a loss to Purdue would damage that argument. Elise van Heuvelen finally ran out of eligibility, but everyone else returns. I really want to pick an upset win for the Boilermakers here, but my head tells me that Iowa has too much senior leadership to allow a slip up here.
April 2: @Indiana
Last year: 1-16, 1-15 Big Ten, No NCAA Tournament
Well, the collapse is now complete. Once upon a time, back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Indiana was a major women’s tennis power. However, around the middle of the 1990s, they begin to slip from their position. They were still usually good, but they weren’t the best in the conference anymore. Around 2016, things started sliding, and they were then consistently in the bottom half of the conference. Last year, they were just the worst team in the entire conference. There were no major additions and a couple of major subtractions to this roster at this point, so I am just going to expect that the situation continues, and that Purdue gets a fifth straight win over the Hoosiers.
April 8: @Illinois
Last year: 9-9, 8-8 Big Ten, No NCAA Appearance
Illinois was the epitome of average last season, with a .500 record in both overall and in Big Ten play. They also took down Purdue three different times, two of which were agonizingly close. They might be headed for a decline though, as they lose Asuka Kawai, their best player from last season, and a couple of other consistent starters. However, they do bring in a highly touted recruiting class, ranked #24 in the nation by tennisrecruiting.net. A lot of their success will revolve around how quickly the new recruits adapt to life in the Big Ten. Honestly, this match could go either direction, but I will pick with home court and recent results.
April 10: vs Ohio State
Last year: 23-4, 15-1 Big Ten, NCAA Sweet Sixteen
The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is very much alive and well in Big Ten women’s tennis as the two squads split their matchups with each other and beat everyone else. In a similar way that Michigan is reloaded and ready for another run at the conference title, Ohio State is ready and hopes to exceed them step for step. Last year’s graduate transfer Lisa Hofbauer is gone, but the Buckeyes have plenty of reinforcements ready, as well as some freshmen hoping to make an early mark. A win here would be awesome, but the facts say that such a win is highly unlikely.
April 15: @Rutgers
Last year: 4-13, 4-12 Big Ten, No NCAA Appearance
Since they joined the Big Ten, last year was actually an above average year for Rutgers. They managed four conference wins in one season compared to three wins in the rest of their Big Ten history, even if they played more Big Ten matches in a season than normal. They even made their first ever Big Ten Tournament, even if it was on a technicality. However, Purdue has yet to lose to Rutgers, and they shouldn’t start that now.
April 17: @Maryland
Last year: 3-16, 1-15 Big Ten, No NCAA Tournament
This team might be the worst in the conference this year. They might have had some momentum from their unexpected run through the Big Ten Tournament, but this was a team heavily reliant on Ayana Akli and Eva Alexandrova last year, and both are gone. There are a lot of new faces, but only graduate transfer Marta Perez Mur has experience playing Big Ten competition consistently. They will struggle to get one or two wins in conference play, and Purdue will not be one of them.
April 23: vs Wisconsin
Last year: 8-11, 7-9 Big Ten, No NCAA Appearance
For the final weekend of the season, Purdue hosts the Upper Midwest teams, starting with Wisconsin. The Badgers were mediocre last season, and a disappointing loss to Michigan State showed that there is still work to go if they want to be considered a Big Ten power. They lose a couple of depth pieces, but their best players are still around, and they brought in quite a few freshmen to hopefully stir the pot a bit. I am guessing that Purdue will be fully gelling by this point in the season, and they pull off a win here.
April 24: vs Minnesota
Last year: 6-13, 4-12 Big Ten, No NCAA Appearance
It was a very disappointing year for the Golden Gophers. They had been in the middle of the conference over the past few years: consistently winning about as many matches in conference play as they lost. However, they fell hard in 2021, finishing in eleventh place in the conference. With this in mind, they tried to infuse their team with freshmen and transfers, hoping to spark something. It could work, but we will not know until the matches are played. This could be an interesting match, but Purdue is likely to win this one for the seniors.
My Prediction: 14-9(6-5 Big Ten)
Best Case Scenario: 19-4(8-3 Big Ten), assuming Tulsa, Notre Dame, Washington, Iowa, and Illinois are wins.
Worst Case Scenario: 9-14(3-8 Big Ten), assuming Xavier, Depaul, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are losses.
The Shape of Success:
Purdue has now had a #15 recruiting class and a #17 recruiting class play their entire Purdue careers without making a single NCAA appearance. An opportunity has been wasted, but there are more opportunities ahead. There is a new group of Boilermakers that have shown promise, but still need to prove themselves during a spring season. The nonconference season is pretty forgiving, and dodging Northwestern in conference play is a boon. I am not necessarily requiring an NCAA Tournament appearance to call this season a success, but I am looking for a move towards the top half of the conference, which is considered either the weakest or second weakest of the Power Six. If we see another season at last year’s level, it may be time to consider who should be leading the Boilermakers in 2023.