Salukis add skill, depth with newest recruits

By Gus Bode

The Saluki women’s tennis team signed three international players and one walk-on from Illinois to complete its roster for the 2011-2012 season.

Twin sisters Ariadna and Gisela Cairo Baza from Barcelona, Spain, will join Natasha Tomishima, from Campo Grande, Brazil, and Siera Hastler from Morton. Adding to the top returning players, coach Audra Nothwehr said they will add depth to the team and create a more challenging atmosphere as it heads into its next season.

“It is exciting that I’m going to have these girls for a couple years together,” Nothwehr said. “We expect them to really help us in the top of our lineup, and it will hopefully make our practices very competitive.”


Of the nine players on the roster, five of them are international. Nothwehr said it’s hard for her as a coach to recruit players from overseas, particularly because she does not have the option of a traveling budget. Videos are one of the primary ways a coach can become familiar with a player’s techniques and tendencies along with looking at rankings and consistency in their match play, Nothwehr said.

“It’s hard to tell if the girl from Brazil is better than one of the twins from Spain,” Nothwehr said. “To be able to get a ranking and hold that for some time, you have to be able to beat quite a few good players, and all three of these players have that.”

According to the Saluki Athletics website, Ariadna Cairo Baza was ranked 64th in women’s singles in Spain, while her twin sister was ranked 105th. Tomishima held a top-5 junior ranking in Brazil.

Junior Melanie Delsart, the returning No. 1 Saluki singles player from Argentina, said the transition to play at the collegiate level in the U.S. can be difficult. Delsart said she grew up playing on clay-surfaced courts, and it took her a season before she was comfortable with the new approach necessary to be successful on a hard-court surface. Before to coming to SIU, she would play longer points and slow down the game, but she said it took her a while to get used to the faster pace and the speed of the American style.

Delsart said the Salukis will have a well-rounded team as they head into next season, and the experience of each player can assist the incoming freshmen in their transition to SIU.

“If they’re smart and they know how to use their game, it’s going to help them when they come here,” Delsart said. “It’s definitely going to help bring the team up.”

Junior singles starter Jennifer Dien said the addition of the new players will create a deeper and more diverse team with an opportunity to make a run at the conference title.


She said the addition of the players will eliminate some of the challenges the team faced last year and thinks the team will have a greater advantage, as they frequently had to play short-handed and forfeited matches.

“We’re hoping everybody comes back top notch and is ready to get after it,” Dien said. “This gives us more depth as a team and extra players if we need them.”