Dawgs earn two titles, No. 2 preseason ranking

By Gus Bode

The SIU men’s tennis team is learning that good performances will lead to great expectations.

The Salukis were selected to finish in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference, but head coach Dann Nelson said it would not mean anything until the team hits the court.

‘It’s nice to get a little recognition from the other teams and coaches,’ Nelson said. ‘We know we can play with anybody in the conference, but it means nothing. Preseason polls just don’t matter at all.’


The second place projectionw is the team’s highest since being selected to finish second in 1991.

The announcement comes two days after the team captured two individual titles at the Missouri Valley Conference Individual Tournament Jan. 25 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Freshman Eric West captured the Flight 3 singles title by defeating Illinois State’s Skip Span in straight sets, 7-6, 6-3. The tournament marked West and the team’s first action since the International Tennis Association’s Central Regional tournament.

West earned a semifinal bid in the consolation round before bowing out to Maor Aumueller of Nebraska, who eventually won the flight’s championship.

Junior Anton Leonenko took home the other individual title by knocking off Drake’s Richard Lau, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2.

The Salukis’ success was not limited to singles action.

West and Leonenko teamed in Flight 1 doubles play and earned a trip to the quarterfinals before falling to Illinois State’s top doubles team. In Flight 2 doubles, Sebastian Rubiano and Hugo Vidal teamed for a quarterfinal appearance of their own before being defeated by Drake.


Nelson said he has high expectations of a team that returns five players who were new to the team last season and have adapted to their roles early this season.

‘They have grown and they have matured,’ Nelson said. ‘They are learning a lot more about what to do in certain situations on the tennis court and what not to do.’

The emergence of West and the return of senior Felipe Villasenor, who captured the Flight 4 singles title in the consolation bracket, could turn SIU into a conference title contender.

Nelson said if all goes right, the Salukis could be a force in the Valley.

‘We have a really good core group, so it seems that we have a lot of the ingredients to make a good run this season.’