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Women’s tennis offers to play with students

By Tyler Davis

It is not every day that an average Carbondale business owner or SIU freshman gets the opportunity to play doubles tennis with Division I players.

The women’s tennis team is hosting a fundraising tournament, which allows students to play doubles with a friend or even an SIU women’s tennis player.

The annual Saluki Challenge will be held Sunday, March 23 at University Tennis Courts near Saluki Stadium. Women’s tennis coach, Audra Anderson, said the tournament is usually held inside but they are hoping to host it outdoors this year. In the case of inclement weather, Anderson said the tournament will be moved to the indoor courts at the Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale.

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Anderson said the competition usually features community members who follow SIU tennis. Senior Korey Love said she appreciates those who follow the team and the Saluki Challenge is a good way to interact with them.

“I’ve always had a good experience playing with a member from the community,” Love said. “It’s a lot of fun and you get to meet new people in the tennis community who are always rooting for you.”

While community member participation is a constant, the team hopes to increase the number of students who come out for the event. To encourage student participation, Anderson has offered SIU students a $10 discount. Registration is $45 per participant, but Anderson said students can register for $35.

“We usually don’t get as much student participation in this fundraiser as we do in the fall fundraiser,” she said. “I’m hoping to get more this year by offering a student discount.”

The tournament is open to men and women, and doubles teams can be coed. An SIU tennis shirt, drinks and dinner are all included in the fee and each competitor is guaranteed at least three matches. If a participant wants to play with a Saluki tennis player, the fee is increased to $65 for students and $75 for nonstudents.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Anderson said. “It’s competitive but it’s not cut-throat. We give out trophies, we have a meal and there’s a silent auction going on. It’s a great environment.”

SIU tennis shirts, basketballs and other items are auctioned off between matches.

The women’s players are reserved on a first come, first serve basis and Anderson said they are usually chosen quickly. Senior Anita Lee has been a tennis player for four years at SIU and said she enjoys participating in the event.

“It’s a really fun mini-tournament and we play with the people that reserve us earliest,” Lee said. “It gives us a chance to interact with the people in the community that play tennis.”

Lee said while she has never won the tournament, most of the time an SIU tennis player does take home a trophy in one of the brackets. However, she said a Saluki player winning it all is not a given, as there have been some pretty good players from the community who have participated.

“Usually someone partners with a player and they win, but you never know because there’s some high schoolers and some good doubles teams in the community,” Lee said.

Anderson said students hoping to participate should register quickly as the tournament usually fills up before the final day.

“It’s grown every year,” she said. “We usually have eight teams that we put into a bracket and then we have three different brackets, depending on skill level.”

The competitors range from novices of the game who are just looking to have fun to community members who still compete in the sport regularly, Anderson said. With the addition of a student discount, Anderson and Lee said they hope it spikes student participation.

“I don’t know if students don’t hear about it but everyone is welcome to play it,” Lee said. “Maybe some times people may have a hard time finding a partner, but it would be fun to have more students be involved.”

People interested in playing should contact Anderson. She can be reached in her office at 618-453-5462 or by email at [email protected] At registration, Anderson needs the participant’s name, skill level and t-shirt size. Anderson said she also needs to know if contestants want to play with a specific partner, a Saluki or will need a partner picked for them.

Anderson said although fliers have stated that registration ends Friday, she would like to have all contestants registered by 12:00 p.m. Thursday, before the team leaves to play their match at the University of Illinois.

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