Slate wiped clean for Saluki tennis

By Gus Bode

Haedline:Women’s tennis earns long-awaited first win, start conference season undefeated

With one long baseline shot, the Salukis went from 0-11 to 1-0.

The SIU women’s tennis team won their conference opener Thursday in dramatic fashion, defeating Evansville 4-3 under the lights of University Courts.

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This was a great win for us, head coach Judy Auld said of her team that has been shorthanded all season. This match showed the true character of this team.

With the score tied 3-3, both teams gathered around court four to see Kari Stark edge Jessica Tessier in the match’s only remaining game. Stark’s victory sealed the Salukis’ triumph, and the rest of the team could not suppress giant smiles when Tessier’s last shot went long.

Stark had won the first set 6-2, but allowed Tessier back into the match, losing 5-7. This created a tense situation for Stark.

She started playing better, and I let her get to me a little bit, Stark said. But it was uphill over that.

Stark performed gracefully in the third set, winning 6-4 and clinching her match and the Salukis’ first victory.

SIU started the match on a high note by winning the doubles point for the first time this year. Erika Ochoa and Stark won 8-6 and Alejandra Blanco and Sarah Krismanits edged their opponents 9-7.

It was a good morale booster for them, Auld said. The big key is the doubles point. We’ve been holding our own in singles, so I think that’s the real big thing.

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The Salukis did hold their own in singles, winning three of four matches.

Blanco was the first off the court after making quick work of Jessica Jetton, stomping the Purple Aces No. 2 player 6-0, 6-1.

Krismanits fell 7-5, 6-3 to Natalie Tessier at No. 3 before Ochoa claimed No. 1 for the Salukis, defeating Brandee Fox 6-3, 7-6.

The importance of the victory could not be put into words.

Just look at our faces, Blanco said with a smile, speaking for the whole team.

The win makes the Salukis undefeated in the Missouri Valley Conference. Despite losing their first 11 games, the team was happy to learn they are now among the top five in the conference.

Defeating the Aces with a four-woman squad was cause for celebration, according to the players, but five minutes after their triumph, Auld was already looking ahead to future victories.

I get greedy, I don’t like to lose, Auld said. They (the players) should relish it, I’ll relish it, but you know what, we’ve got two more matches ahead of us.

Though it will be difficult, Auld believes the team can come home from their weekend road matches in Springfield, Mo., and Wichita, Kan., 3-0 in the conference.

Southwest and Wichita State are going to be very strong, and we’ll have to play very, very well to win those matches, Auld said. But this win was a good morale booster and it showed the players we can win.

By the time the match ended around 8 p.m., the sky was dark and the weather cold. Only four non-players were around to witness the Saluki triumph. Among the crowd was Tana Trapani, the team’s injured redshirt sophomore and self-proclaimed No. 1 fan of SIU women’s tennis.

Trapani was ecstatic about the victory, despite not having the opportunity to physically take part in it.

It’s great. They deserve it so much, Trapani said. I really admire them, and I’m real excited. I’m their number one fan, and I think they did awesome.

Reporter Michael Brenner can be reached at [email protected]

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