Daily Egyptian

Saluki tennis’ biggest fans are themselves

By Tony McDaniel

When looking for the biggest supporters of tennis at SIU, look no further than the players themselves.

Tennis matches at SIU do not draw the amount of fans basketball and football does, which results in a quiet playing atmosphere for the Salukis. However, SIU tennis has found a way to combat this.

At each men’s home match, the women’s team is there to create a loud and educated cheering section.

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Senior Anita Lee said having such strong support from a team of the same sport helps teams find motivation.

“Every time we’re in town and the other team is playing a home match, we try and make it out,” Lee said. “Sometimes cheering and the fans can help you win a match. That’s why when we get there we try to be as loud as we can and cheer as much as we can.”

Sophomore Jonny Rigby plays for the men’s team and says he benefits from the support the women’s team gives them.

“When you’ve got somebody supporting you and you’re in a close match it gives you that extra little bit of motivation to try and push on and push yourself,” he said.

Rigby said the support the women give them is not a one-way street.ti

“If we get the chance, we always try and sort of return the favor and go and watch their matches as well,” he said.

Not only do the teams support each other because of the bond they share over tennis, but their competitive fire fuels it as well.

The Saluki Cup is a friendly competition amongst all the sports teams at SIU sanctioned by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, or SAAC. In the Saluki Cup, teams are awarded points for attending home matches of other Saluki sports teams, volunteering for community service events and earning a high team grade point average. At the end of the year, the men and women’s team with the most points win Under Armour apparel for their team.

Each sport also picks one ‘maroon’ game a year. For maroon games, student-athletes from all sports on campus are encouraged to attend and form a large cheering section to support their fellow Salukis. The maroon game is usually against a team’s rival or an important game on their schedule.

The women’s maroon game is scheduled for Sunday April 6, against Drake University while the men’s team chose their final match of the season against Wichita State University, as its maroon game Friday April 11.

Junior Natasha Tomishima and Lee are the representatives for the women’s tennis team on the SAAC board. Tomishima said while the Saluki Cup is still a new idea, it has boosted crowds at home games and also built relationships between student-athletes.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Tomishima said. “It’s fun, it’s like a competition, but at the same time you’re helping.”

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected]@tonymcdanielDE or 536-3311 ext. 282.

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