Tennis enters conference play

The SIU women’s tennis team travels to Wichita, Kan., this weekend for the Missouri Valley Conference Individual Championships.

Last year, junior Anita Lee won the Flight-5 singles championship and defeated her first two opponents in straight sets (6-3, 6-0 and 6-0, 7-5). Lee won the championship match by staging a comeback, as she won the final two sets after losing the first (6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-6 (3)).

Senior Melanie Delsart and junior Korey Love won their first two matches 8-4, and they improved their play in the doubles championship in tandem as they won the decisive match 8-1.

Coach Audra Nothwehr said the team hopes to exceed last year’s success.

“We did pretty well last year, which was one of the best performances we have had at the MVC Individuals,” she said. “This year we are aiming to win at least a few more matches.”

Nothwehr said the team will see more familiar opponents since this is a conference tournament. Lee said familiarity could be a negative as much as it is a positive.

“We will be competing against the players who probably know our games better than anyone else,” Lee said. “It’s harder to win against people you have already beaten because they make adjustments.”

She said the team has practiced with extra intensity and implemented earlier practice times this week.

“We have been doing more early morning practices because we have early match times,” Lee said. “By doing this, our bodies should be more prepared for the tournament.”

Senior Jennifer Dien, who won the 2011 Flight-2 Consolation Championship, said she hopes to improve her approach to the tournament.

“I’ve done a lot of practice on my backhand, serve and volley … but this year I have to maintain a positive attitude no matter what happens,” she said.

Nothwehr said she has noticed how much effort every player committed to the tournament.

“Of course practices are intense. This tournament is a big deal,” she said. “The girls have done a great job of working extra hard this week and pushing through minor setbacks. Some girls have even come back from injuries a little earlier than they were supposed to in order to get a sufficient amount of practice.”

Lee said the team must remain aggressive and close out matches when it can.

“Since we are playing within the conference, we have to keep the intensity up,” she said. “We also have to try and finish matches. We can’t leave any openings.”

Delsart returns to the No. 1 singles slot for the Salukis this weekend. Lee jumps to the No. 2 slot and sophomore Natasha Tomishima will play at the No. 3 singles slot. The three doubles teams to compete in Wichita are Delsart/Love (Flight-1), Dien/Tomishima (F-2) and junior Anastacia Simons/Lee (F-3).

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