Daily Egyptian

Experienced tennis transfer hoping to kickstart Salukis

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

The SIU men’s tennis team has its sights set high with new faces joining in on the effort.

Junior transfer student Wilder Pimentel is coming off a successful season at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is an addition coach Dann Nelson is anxious to see in maroon and white.

Pimentel made the first team Atlantic 10 Conference Team his sophomore year and helped the Rams make it to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons. After falling short in their conference finals twice, Pimentel felt the team morale at VCU shifted for the worse.

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“I was looking for a university that would give me the motivation to play tennis — and that’s why I chose to come here,” Pimentel said.

Before he attended VCU, Pimentel traveled to Italy, Spain, Belgium and France to compete in the International Tennis Federation Tournament and he finished 10th at the Junior Davis Cup. Pimentel was ranked as high as 298th in the 16 and under division.

Pimentel practiced daily with former SIU tennis player Jorge Cavero at home in Lima, Peru. Cavero split time at SIU as the number two and number three singles and doubles player from 2010-2014.

Nelson said Cavero was a big help in recruiting Pimentel. Cavero discussed the housing options for Pimentel, explained the system Nelson ran at SIU and even introduced him to some teammates.

“We needed another solid piece, and that’s what [Pimentel] brings to the team,” Nelson said. “He had other offers, but I’m glad he chose SIU.”

Senior Jonny Rigby and Junior Michal Kianicka were some of the top performers last year. Rigby finished on the All-Missouri Valley Conference team with a singles record of 20-9 and Kianicka led the team with a .737 winning percentage last season — Pimentel will fit in Nelson said.

Rigby said Pimentel’s two years of college tennis experience will help out younger Salukis.

“Last year we had six freshmen, we were a relatively inexperienced team,” Rigby said. “[Pimentel] is the caliber player that we needed so he should help massively.”

The team is still in its offseason, and the lineup has not been finalized yet. The Purdue Invite is its first preseason tournament the weekend of Sept. 25. Every player will play in both singles and doubles, Nelson said.

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @EvanJones_DE

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