Dramatic final match seals perfect weekend for men’s and women’s tennis


From left: senior Meagan Monaghan congratulates junior Vitoria Beirao on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, after her singles win in straight sets against Southeast Missouri State sophomore Ana Canahuate-Torres at Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Sean Carley

For a few moments on Sunday night, the outlook looked bleak for SIU women’s tennis to finish off an undefeated weekend of matches on both the men’s and women’s side.

SIU held a 3-1 advantage against NAIA Lindsey Wilson College thanks to winning the doubles point as well as singles victories from juniors Athena Chrysanthou and Xiwei Cai. The Salukis needed just one more individual win to clinch the team victory but were trailing in each of the remaining three matches.

The Blue Raiders won two more matches to force the final matchup still going — SIU senior No. 1 Ana Sofia Cordero versus LWC sophomore No. 1 Alex Shchipakina — to be the decisive one.


In the time the other two matches finished, Cordero dropped the first set 7-5. She came back to win the second 6-1 and by the time the determining set began, all teammates and fans for both schools had shifted their attention to the match.

Cordero kept the momentum and finished off the match by winning the final set 6-2, handing Shchipakina only her fifth collegiate loss of her career.

“[Cordero] was having a kind of rough weekend inside with her matches and she’s better outside so it just took her a set to get her momentum back,” said director of tennis operations Audra Anderson.

The win clinches a six-win weekend for Saluki tennis — easily its most successful of the year.

“3-0 on the weekend and 6-0 overall with the guys,” Anderson said. “This was a big home weekend. This was a big adjustment for us since it was our first real match outdoors … and in this kind of weather, but they persevered.”

This was the second close match of the day for the women’s team as it faced Tennessee-Martin earlier Sunday and came out on top, 4-2.

After SIU won the doubles point, Cordero, senior Polina Dozortseva and junior Vitoria Beirao each won their singles matches to seal the victory.


The Saluki women also won against Southeast Missouri 6-1 on Friday to start the weekend.

Meanwhile, it was smooth sailing for the men’s team all weekend as it picked up a 6-1 win on Friday against Eastern Illinois, a 4-0 win on Saturday against Northern Illinois and a 7-0 win on Sunday against Lindsey Wilson.

Even though the final team scores looked lopsided, Anderson said the matches were much closer than the numbers said.

“[Lindsey Wilson] is a NAIA team, but they’re loaded with Division I players who just didn’t make it for one reason or the other,” she said. “If you saw the scores, they were incredibly close, so it was a great match for us to have.”

National No. 58 doubles team of senior Piotr Baranski and junior Alex Pozo moved to 6-0 on the season together with three victories on the weekend. In Saturday’s match, the two had to fend off the Huskies on match point eight times to win in an 8-6 tiebreak.

Senior Piotr Baranski returns the ball Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, during the Salukis’ win against the Eastern Illinois University Panthers at the Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Baranski, Pozo, senior Wilder Pimentel, junior Michal Kianicka and freshman Param Pun each went undefeated on the weekend in singles.

“I think all the guys came out at a good level,” said graduate assistant coach Jonny Rigby after Friday’s victory. “Obviously it was good for our confidence.”

The three wins per side pushed the men’s winning streak to seven matches and a 7-1 overall record, while the women bounced back to an even .500 record at 4-4 in what will be the teams’ final season after a decision was made by the university to cut the tennis teams as a result of the state budget impasse.

“Our motto is ‘everyone is a senior’ this year,” Anderson said Friday. “I’m seeing them gradually get into that role. … There’s that sense of urgency now … you want your team and your family to get that win.”

Both teams travel for matches next weekend. The men’s team will face Iowa at 6 p.m. Friday while the women’s team will face Louisville at 3 p.m. Friday and Indiana at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Staff writer Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SeanMCarley.

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