Women’s tennis ready for final matches

By Gus Bode

Factoid:SIU hosts Indiana State Friday at 2 p.m., Bradley Saturday at 10 a.m. and Illinois State at 10 a.m. Sunday

Sure, it is unconventional, but the SIU women’s tennis team should become the biggest Wichita State and Southwest Missouri State fans – at least this weekend.

SIU (5-11, 3-3) is in sixth place in the Missouri Valley Conference heading into its final three matches and needs two losses from Northern Iowa, which hosts the Shockers and Bears, to slide into fifth place.

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If the season were to end today, the Salukis would play Drake (10-10, 6-1), which defeated them 6-1 four days ago. But if the Salukis climb into fifth, they could possibly play Wichita State, which also defeated them, but is seemingly less dangerous. The Shockers beat SIU 4-3 April 9.

SIU also needs to handle its own business.

The Salukis have matches against Indiana State (10-10, 6-1) and Illinois State (12-7, 6-1) sandwiched between a meeting with Bradley (4-14, 0-7).

Notching a win against Indiana State and Illinois State, two teams tied atop the conference standings with Drake, will not be easy. Edging out slumping Bradley could also prove difficult, as the Redbirds could be looking to play the role of spoiler.

“If we were to beat Indiana State or Illinois State, which I think are the two best teams in our conference, that would be a huge step for us,” said SIU head coach Brett Bridel.

It seems difficult enough to knock off Indiana State and Illinois State, but it figures to be that much harder with the expected absence of Tana Trapani, who is still recuperating from a nagging hip injury.

Trapani, who initially suffered the injury in the fall of 2002, usually competes in No. 1 doubles with Maria Blanco and No. 3 in singles.

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“Our plan going in is that we won’t have her for this weekend,” Bridel said.

Trapani played in singles and doubles against Northern Iowa April 15, but was only able to compete in doubles the following day at Creighton. Bridel said it usually takes about two weeks for Trapani to recover from a match.

“If we can use her in any of [the matches] this weekend it’ll be a bonus,” Bridel said. “But we don’t think we will be able to.”

Bridel added:”We have a tough task ahead of us with Indiana State on Friday and Illinois State on Sunday, even if Tana’s in the lineup. Bradley’s a little bit down, but we have a tough job with or without her.”

Bridel’s hoping to have Trapani ready for the MVC Championships April 29. Where SIU is seeded when she returns, will be based on how many Saluki victories and Northern Iowa losses result this weekend.

“We have confidence in this weekend,” Blanco said. “We also know it’s our last three chances to get a better spot in the MVC Tournament, so everyone’s really willing to play really hard this weekend.”

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]

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