Salukis head to MVC Individual Championships

By Gus Bode

Out of the ashes of past disappointments rises a veteran SIU men’s tennis team.

A group loaded with upperclassmen, this year the Salukis look to re-stake a claim as one of the premier programs in the Missouri Valley Conference, starting with the MVC Individual Championships this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa.

Consider this:Last year’s team, after a strong start that included a six-match win streak, stumbled mightily toward the end of the year and finished with a 10-11 record. The sub-.500 mark was still SIU’s second-best finish in the last 17 years.


This kind of anti-legacy is one of the barriers to success that the Salukis have tried to get over during the first half of the year.

Besides that there is the issue of bad luck. Injuries have often spoiled any chance for success SIU has had during the Missy Jeffrey era. The determined head coach, though, sees much promise in her newly built team, one looking to add to the 16 conference championships the program already has.

“I consider the program rebuilt because I know that we have a rebuilt team and we have the confidence of a rebuilt team,” Jeffrey said.

This confident, rebuilt squad comes into the individual championships at full strength, a rarity that’s both comforting and vital to success.

“It’s really nice,” Jeffrey said. “Instead of just being able to put somebody in the lineup if somebody is injured, which we couldn’t do last year, we can actually take whoever needs to rest a little more, manage injuries, and knowing their history, knowing what they are capable of, we can take somebody out of the lineup before they get injured. It’s the first time we’ve had a squad like that.”

As for the Drake-hosted individual championships, this tournament traditionally acts as a welcome party for MVC teams as they enter the spring season. No team records are determined, but individuals will be able to build on their records during the weekend’s singles and doubles matches.

Like just about every other match before April’s MVC championships, the individual championships are a barometer for the season’s climax. But unlike other matches, conference rivals get to see each other up close as a season-long battle of wills begins.


“If we win some of the matches now, then we’ll have a psychological advantage for the matches in April, and hopefully we can use that to win again,” senior Alexandru Nomicos said.

Nomicos also said he expects challenges in every match, especially from Drake, Wichita State and Southwest Missouri State.

This weekend marks only the second time SIU played since October, but judging from its 2-1 record in last weekend’s play at Eastern Kentucky, there is no rust to be found on the Salukis’ frame.

“When I went back home, even though we had a break, I played really often and I tried to stay focused on the game and not slack off so that I could be ready right now, so, no problem,” Nomicos said.

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]