Salukis to take momentum into regionals

By Gus Bode

Junior Jennifer Dien returns a serve Wednesday during SIU women’s tennis practice at the Sports Blast. The team begins the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Tournament, a five-day competition, today in Tulsa, Okla.

The SIU women’s tennis team is set to finish its fall schedule with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Tournament, taking on a mixture of conference foes and regional powerhouses.

The Salukis entered the tournament on a high note as they won Sunday’s Fall Classic at home. They start today in Tulsa, Okla., as the University of Tulsa hosts the regional tournament that runs through Monday.

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Coach Audra Nothwehr said she is pleased to see how her team approached practice this week after they had limited time to prepare for the final fall tournament.

“We’ve been working on some consistency drills and depth drills, and we’re just trying to stay positive, be focused, and take it to them,” Nothwehr said.  “Our goal is to get in the main draw and get some wins, and try and get as far as we can.”

Consistency and focus are two things that sophomore Anita Lee said she also plans to bring to the tournament. After her battle to win her final match at the Fall Classic, Lee said she was determined not to lose.

“I kept telling myself I could do it, and this was my chance to get it,” Lee said. “If I didn’t fight hard now, I might not ever get that chance again.”

Lee and junior Anastacia Simons both went 2-0 in singles matches for the Salukis, but Lee said she has more to improve on for a better chance of success.

“I can work on getting my first serve in — that is something that I can make stronger,” Lee said.

Regionals present a different challenge than the conference Fall Classic for the Salukis, but everyone except sophomore Korey Love has been to regionals before.  With the experience the team has, Nothwehr said the tournament offers the Salukis the ability to gauge their team against bigger Division I schools.

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“This is a tournament where you can play regionally ranked players and nationally ranked players,” Nothwehr said. “I think we have a shot at getting our players ranked.”

One of the top ranked singles players at regionals will be sophomore Natallia Pintusava from University of Minnesota. Pintusava was ranked 61st in the nation in the preseason polls.

To have a chance against some of the nation’s top players, Love said she believes the key is to stick to the basics.

“We really just want to be aggressive and keep it simple, to serve and volley and keep our volleys in the court,” Love said.

Other top teams at regionals will be the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa, but Lee said having to battle through her singles matches at the Fall Classic will help future performances.

“This tournament is going to be really tough,” Lee said. “I played pretty well, and fought really hard in my final match, so I have to keep fighting this weekend.”

 

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