Daily Egyptian

Tennis wraps up season with championship hardware

By Tyler Dixon

The Salukis had a rocky start to the season but a young duo came together at the right time to claim the Missouri Valley Conference Doubles Championship at Drake University during the weekend.

Sophomore Jonny Rigby and freshman Michal Kianicka claimed the title Sunday morning after beating Wichita State University 8-2 in the final.

Coach Dann Nelson said his team’s mindset was simple with only one tournament left.

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“Our goal going into this tournament was for it to be our best tournament of the fall,” he said. “I think we accomplished that.”

Rigby said he knew the potential he and his partner possessed.

“I knew me and Michal (Kianicka) would play well, that we could be really good but we sort of exceeded expectations,” Rigby said.

Kianicka agreed with Rigby in that they went above what everyone thought they could do but Kianicka is still looking forward to the next two years with Rigby.

“It was amazing, no one expected us to win, we wanted to go deep but since we are a freshman and sophomore, no one expected us to go all the way,” Kianicka said. “It’s an amazing feeling, we have to win another two years.”

Nelson said the success of Rigby and Kianicka means good things for the future of Saluki tennis.

“I think it bodes well for the recruiting that we’ve done, Jonny’s just a sophomore and Michal’s a freshman,” Nelson said. “For those guys to win the doubles championship is just amazing.”

Not only did Rigby find success in doubles, but he advanced to the final of the singles championship as well. Rigby dropped the match 6-1, 7-5.

Along with Rigby, junior Jorge Cavero advanced to the third round of the singles bracket but fell to Drake junior Matt Frost 6-4, 7-5.

Cavero didn’t play well at the beginning of the season but gained momentum as the season wound down.

“He definitely finished it better than he started, he’s gaining confidence with every win so that’s always good to see,” Nelson said.

Every player was guaranteed three singles matches and Rigby said no one could hang their heads.

“This weekend every player played well and fought well,” he said. “Nobody went there and could have been disappointed in the way they played.”

Kianicka and fellow freshman Filip Aleksic had to transition to a new country, new school and a new doubles partners but Kianicka feels he did well in his first season as a Saluki.

“I think that my fall season was pretty good, I think the team also did well the whole season,” Kianicka said. “I think we’ll keep playing better and better.”

The fall roster for the team only had six members. Nelson said he has one spot open for a scholarship player and hopes to add a few more walk-ons.

Rigby said it would take pressure off of the other members of the team knowing they have other players to fill in.

“It’s going to obviously improve the depth of our team,” Rigby said.

The Salukis have a little over two months off until the start of the spring season. Their first match is on the road at Oklahoma State University Jan. 17. The first home match for the team is Feb. 14 against Austin Peay University.

Nelson said all he wanted his team to do during the fall was simply improve.

“We just progressively got better each tournament and that’s what I’ve been preaching to them since the get-go,” Nelson said. “To get better each day, improve day to day and that’s what I think we’ve accomplished this fall season.”

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