Double’s chemistry key to Salukis’ breakout season

By Terrance Peacock

 

With the regular season in the books the SIU women’s tennis team concluded its season with one of the best records in school history.

The Salukis finished their season 17-4 overall and 6-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Their 17 wins tied the school record for the most in a season.

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SIU set a school-record 10-match winning streak from Feb. 2-March 21 and followed up with a seven-match streak from April 3- 20.

The more impressive statistic is how well the team faired in doubles competition this season.

The Salukis finished the season with an astounding 74-23 doubles record and 15-6 record in the MVC. The team held an impressive .763 winning percentage in doubles action this year.

Coach Audra Nothwehr said the team’s doubles success comes from how well the players complement each other on the court.

“They have great relationships on the court and they do a great job building each other up when someone’s down.” Nothwehr said. “They know it’s important to step it up themselves, but they also encourage their teammate’s when it’s not going well for them.”

Nothwehr said the players’ complementary skill sets were the main factors in choosing doubles partners this season, but the x-factor that sets this group of doubles teams apart is their chemistry off the court.

“Sometimes I think they are around each other too much,” Nothwehr said. “Having that relaxed relationship between each other off the court helps you learn to enjoy each other’s time on the court as well.”

This holds true as the Salukis No. 1 doubles team composed of seniors Melanie Delsart and Anastacia Simons boasted a 28-6 season record, including a 5-2 record in the conference.

The doubles tandem in January became the second duo in school history to enter the Intercollegiate Tennis Association national doubles rankings at No. 36.

The two also are roommates.

“We’ve lived together for the past two or three years,” Delsart said. “We hang out almost everyday. We eat together and study together. It’s hard not to hang out with someone you live with and is always around.”

Simons the pair is comfortable using humor to calm each other down when they are in a tough match.

“We make jokes to lighten the mood during a match if we are in a tight spot,” Simons said. “That lessens the tension between us so we can play our match.”

Nothwehr said Simons’ and Delsart’s ability to battle back when they are down makes them great.

“Even when they are down, I have seen them several times just go for it,” Nothwehr said. “They know that they are never out of it. I have also seen a lot of times when one of them isn’t playing well the other person really steps it up.”

The No. 2 doubles team, made up of senior Jennifer Dien and sophomore Natasha Tomishima, also stepped up their play this season. The duo finished the season with a 21-8 overall record and a 4-3 record in the Valley.

The two have been doubles partners for two years and said they are really close.

“We talk a lot, go to dinner together and just like to be goofy,” Dien said. “We just like to have fun and make each other laugh.”

Dien said the camaraderie doesn’t end with the doubles partners, the whole team likes to spend time together.

“Everybody likes to have fun,” Dien said. “We all like to goof around with each other and do spur of the moment things.”

Tomishima said their relationship off the court helps the two feel comfortable playing with each other during the matches.

“We understand each other and if we have a tiff with each other we just say it later, or go about our day,” Tomishima said.

The Salukis No. 3 doubles team composed of juniors Anita Lee and Korey Love also holds a solid 18-3 record and 6-1 conference record.

Nothwehr said there were many different combinations of doubles teams she could have chose from, but the deciding factor came down to the player’s relationships with each other off the tennis court, and that has worked well into the team’s favor.

“I could have combined the team’s a number of different ways,” Nothwehr said. “But I think the extra part of it is their relationships between each other are complementary.”

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