Perfection achieved: NIU women’s tennis senior Nelle Youel goes 20-0 in singles

By Frank Gogola

Women’s tennis senior Nelle Youel’s final match of her 20-0 season proved to be one of her toughest matches of 2015. She wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Youel finished the spring season with a pair of victories over the weekend. She beat Akron’s Karolina Maksimova in straight sets (6-1, 6-1) Friday. But, she needed three sets (7-5, 4-6, 6-2) to take down Buffalo’s Tanya Stojanovska on Saturday, which she said was one of her top three toughest matches of the season — along with DePaul and Ball State.

“I think this one was tough in a different way because it was really back and forth,” Youel said. “I had my games where I was really good, and then I’d have a game where I just wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be.

“… I think it was actually more rewarding that it was a three-set match to get that 20th [win] in a row for the season just because it was work. It meant a little bit more because it wasn’t just an easy match.”

Heading into Sunday’s season finale against Buffalo, Youel said she felt like she held everything together. She wasn’t overly nervous about her undefeated season or too emotional about playing her final match at NIU.

“At that point I just felt like I had nothing to lose,” Youel said. “Had I won or lost that last match I think I had a great career regardless of the outcome of that match. I really just enjoyed the moment. Obviously, the thought is there, like of course you want to win; you want to go undefeated, but it’s just another day, another match. So I just keep that mentality the whole time.”

Youel took the opening set of the match, 7-5, before she dropped the second set, 4-6. When she won the third set, 6-2, the reality of a perfect season set in.

“It sort of was the perfect ending to all the work I’ve put in over the last four years and just showed how much it paid off for me,” Youel said. “It was very rewarding and definitely meant a lot to me … . Winning that last point was surreal in a way because it was the end of my career and I knew going undefeated was sort of in the picture.”

Youel will wait to find out if she will be selected to the NCAA Div. I Women’s Tennis Singles Championships as an at-large bid since she’s not ranked. If she doesn’t get selected her record-breaking career at NIU will be over since the team didn’t make the MAC Championships.

Making the MAC Championships had been the team’s ultimate goal since the season began. When looking at the schedule before the start of the season, Youel said she never imagined going 20-0. But, she said she also never doubted her ability to win.

“If I played my game and played well then I should be able to win,” Youel said. “I never thought I’d actually win 20 in a row because there are so many good players out there, but I definitely would not have counted myself out. I believed in myself and believed that I could be successful from the beginning.”