Daily Egyptian

Women’s tennis team streaks into conference

By Matt Wells, @mattwells_DE

It takes many different types of wins throughout a season for a team to be great.

SIU women’s tennis (9-6) extended its win streak to 8 matches since Feb. 23 in Friday’s doubleheader after they swept Western Illinois (1-15, 0-4), 7-0 and beat Western Kentucky (6-8, 1-2) with the last singles set for a score of 4-3. 

SIU began the season playing teams such as Louisville, UC Santa Barbara, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The team began the season 1-6.

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Women’s tennis coach Audra Anderson said the start was scary for the players and it is difficult to get the freshmen used to the schedule format. 

“All of those are up there in the rankings right now,” Anderson said. “But it helped us in the long run because it really made the girls see what they needed to work on.”

All eight wins of the streak were earned at home.

Anderson said the team was playing with more risk before the streak but now is using more efficient shots.

“They are using better patterns of play, including what shots to hit when, where to hit it and when to go for secondary patterns,” Anderson said.

She said finding the right balance between risk and efficiency is key.

The team has also moved players around and found a lineup that wins during its stretch. Anderson said freshmen Athena Chrysanthou and Yana Golovkina have stepped their game up since the beginning of the season.

“They’ve filled some holes,” Anderson said. “We were pretty decent at one and two, but for a while, the middle of our lineup was a little bit shaky.”

She said Chrysanthou was the front-runner freshman in the fall but plateaued until this spring, when she regained the level she once played. 

Chrysanthou has dealt with what she referred to as a minor hamstring tear the last couple of weeks.

Team trainer Kaitlyn Maloney would not confirm Chrysanthou’s torn hamstring.

It did not affect her much in the Western Illinois match, as SIU swept the Leathernecks, but the match against the Hilltoppers was a closer call. 

Anderson made sure Chrysanthou had the support of her team in her singles match against WKU freshman Elipida Malamou by grabbing senior Ariadna Cairo Baza to get the rest of the players to cheer louder since Chrysanthou is fueled by it.

“In my head I knew I already had all the support I needed to get through a match like that, even though I was in quite a lot of pain,” Chrysanthou said.

Chrysanthou is not the only team member playing through an injury.

Senior Natasha Tomishima suffered a cramp in her wrist late in her match against WKU freshman Emilia Granstrom.

“That’s really hard to battle through, somewhat of an injury,” Anderson said. “But she’s done it before so I knew she could do it.”

A medical timeout was called for Tomishima and she was tended to by Maloney before going back on the court.

Maloney would not confirm an injury for Tomishima either. Graduate assistant coach Michaela Bezdickova cleared Tomishima to return to play if she was up for it. 

The Salukis needed that win to keep the streak going because they lost all the doubles matches.

Tomishima continued to show power, speed and poise and won the last set 7-6.

“Being a senior and just really loving to play, she’s just got a lot of heart and that’s what you want in a leader,” Anderson said.

Cairo Baza was confident Tomishima would win the match.

“I knew it was going to be tight, because she’s really a fighter on the court,” Cairo Baza said. “She really wants to win and she showed it in the match.”

The Salukis play the Evansville Purple Aces at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Wesselman Park in Evansville, Ind.

Matt Wells can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-6311 ext. 269.

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