Although the SIU women’s tennis team lost 4-0 to Wichita State University in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Championships, it finished with the highest winning percentage in school history.
The MVC Championships were Saturday in Omaha, Neb., and ended for the Salukis with a loss to the Shockers.
The Salukis entered the matchup after their 4-0 win against Evansville University. The Shockers came into play ranked 58 in the nation and swept the Salukis in their previous meeting in the regular season.
Play started with an 8-5 win for No. 1 doubles partners junior Melanie Delsart and sophomore Korey Love. The Salukis did not win the doubles point, however, as the next two seeded lost their matches. Natasha Tomishima and Jennifer Dien lost 8-0 at No. 2 doubles, and Anita Lee and Anastacia Simons lost 8-6 at No. 3.
With the doubles wins, the Shockers needed three singles wins to clinch the win overall.
No. 2 singles Dien lost 6-0, 6-1, and Tomishima lost 6-2, 6-2 at No. 4. The Salukis’ loss was sealed when Gisela Cairo Baza lost 6-0, 6-2; the remaining matches were left unfinished, as the match was already decided.
Despite the loss, coach Audra Nothwehr said she was proud of how her team performed.
“Everyone played with passion. Everyone was 100 percent focused,” Nothwehr said. “I don’t think that everyone played their absolute best tennis that day, but that’s hard to do … to get everyone playing their best tennis match on the same day, under pressure, when a conference championship is on the line.”
While WSU had experienced players in its top two singles spots, Nothwehr said next year it will be the Salukis with the experience as they return every player from this year’s team.
The 17-6 Saluki women had key contributions from several underclassmen on the way to their best record in school history. Nothwehr said the play of freshman twins Ariadna and Gisela Cairo Baza was a pleasant surprise for her, as well as junior Delsart’s ability to battle through injuries and still play consistently.
Nothwehr said she has big goals for her team next year, but the work starts in the summer.
“I have big goals for them; getting them nationally ranked … winning conference … beating WSU,” Nothwehr said. “And they have big goals for themselves. It’s going to be exciting.”