Salukis take Trapani, upset mentality into MVCs

By Gus Bode

Bojan Ilievski did not sound worried about his team’s chances in the Missouri Valley Conference Championships on the phone.

He did not sound the least bit nervous about today’s 2 p.m. first-round match against No. 2 seeded Wichita State (14-8, 6-1).

No, he spoke with an air of optimism.

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And to think, he plays for the same team that lost at Bradley and Illinois State last weekend, one loss coming in the worst conditions SIU head coach Missy Jeffrey said any of her teams had ever played under.

Confidence is something SIU (8-10, 2-5) is not short on.

“We have very good chances against Wichita State,” said Jeffrey, now in her fifth season as head coach.

SIU had chances in an earlier meeting with the Shockers, a 4-2 loss April 10 at Wichita State in a match void of doubles competition because of weather conditions.

Rodrigo Lama and Ilievski were the only Salukis to notch singles victories. But two of the Salukis’ four singles losses did come in three sets, a testament to their pride and fighting attitude. And of course, in the conference championships, every team has a clean slate and an opportunity to advance.

“Some people might say playing the second seed is not a good draw,” Jeffrey said. “But I think it is.”

Optimism is great, but the fact of the matter is Wichita State beat SIU once already and the Salukis are coming in as heavy underdogs.

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SIU found its way to an upset victory April 16, handing then-undefeated Drake its first conference loss of the season. Whether the Salukis can pull off another upset remains to be seen.

“They know they can beat these teams if they play up to their potential,” Jeffrey said.

SIU would play either Bradley (7-15, 2-5) or Southwest Missouri State (9-7, 5-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday if it can eliminate Wichita State.

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]

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