With just the Big Ten Tournament left, #31 Northwestern needs to emerge from its uneven stretch to retain its standing as the Big Ten’s preeminent tennis program. Over the past two weeks, the ‘Cats did little to inspire conference after an up-and-down weekend marked by two early losses to Minnesota and Wisconsin and two wins over Ohio State and Penn State.

Last weekend, the #20 Northwestern Women’s Tennis (14-9, B1G 7-4) team lost to Minnesota (4-3) on Friday evening and #49 Wisconsin (4-3) on Sunday morning in a disappointing travel weekend for the ‘Cats.

The Wildcats had a strong start against the Gophers, winning the doubles point at first with wins from the Rheeya Doshi and Clarissa Hand and the Inci Ogut and Lee Or pairings. Doshi and Hand beat the Gophers 7-5, and Or joined Ogut in winning 6-3.

However, the Gophers won singles spots one, four, five and six. They came out on top this weekend winning close sets against Hand and Doshi. Orr and Doshi were victorious on Courts #2 and #3, respectively.

On Sunday, the Badgers beat out the Wildcats in the two doubles matches that finished and in three of the singles matches. Hand and Julie Byrne led Northwestern by taking spots one and two for singles, leading Northwestern, but the Badgers won spots three, four, and five.

The Wildcats had a tough weekend with teams that they should have played better against, especially Minnesota, but they rebounded against the Buckeyes and bottomfeeder Nittany Lions.

The Buckeyes, riding an 8-1 conference record entering the match, lost the doubles point as Hand and Orr, playing in their familiar #1 spot, defeated Shiori Fukuda and Luna Dormet 6-3, while the Buckeyes #74 pairing of  Danielle Wolf and Isabelle Boulais dropped their match against Julie Byrne and Hannah McColgan by a 3-6 scoreline.

Byrne and Orr defeated ranked singles opponents in #83 Fukuda and #91 Kolie Allen, while Caroline Pozo and McColgan finished off their opponents to give Northwestern its first ranked victory since March 1 against Illinois with a 5-2 triumph.

The ‘Cats cruised against Penn State on Senior Day, but initially the doubles point appeared up for grabs. Hand and Orr came out in the deciding third game, winning a tiebreak 7-6 (8-6). Hand and Byrne earned wins at #1 and #2 singles, while Carol Finke recorded the final victory on Northwestern’s Big Ten regular season to give Northwestern the 4-2 win.

The team celebrated seniors Doshi, Finke, and Orr before the match, and Finke and Orr responded with victories in their final regular season game while Doshi dropped her match.

Northwestern will play in the Big Ten tournament this weekend, and are slated to hold the #5 seed. The tournament takes place April 25-28 in Lincoln, Nebraska.