The SIU women’s tennis team split its final two matches of the regular season to end with a 5-2 conference record and a second-place tie in conference standings.
The matches began Saturday when the Salukis faced Illinois State in Bloomington-Normal. The team entered the match with a three-game win streak but saw its streak snapped at the hands of the Redbirds.
The Salukis captured only one doubles match and two singles matches to lose 5-2 overall. Coach Audra Nothwehr said the Redbirds just outplayed her team.
The lone doubles win came from partners junior Melanie Delsart and sophomore Korey Love with a score of 8-2. The win was the duo’s third straight at No. 1 doubles, but it was not enough to clinch the doubles point. At No. 2, Jennifer Dien and Natasha Tomishima lost 8-2, and No. 3 doubles Anita Lee and Anastacia Simons lost 8-3.
Despite their loss, Dein said she focused on the placement of her shots during the match.
“(We tried) to open up the middle, when they played the middle … working angles and pulling them apart,” Dien said.
In singles play, Lee captured a win at No. 3 as she held off her opponent in a third-set win 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Freshman Ariadna Cairo Baza had the Saluki’s other singles victory with a 6-0, 6-3 win; the victory brought her winning streak to three games at No. 5 singles.
No. 1 singles Delsart lost 6-4, 6-3 to snap her three- game win streak. At No. 3, Dien lost 7-6, 6-1 after a close first set, and Tomishima lost after forcing a third set 7-5, 4-6, 10-8. Love lost at No. 6, 6-2, 6-0.
Nothwehr said her team had an off day against the Redbirds.
“We just struggled. We didn’t look like ourselves. They had the home court advantage and we couldn’t get things going,” Nothwehr said.
The Salukis bounced back Sunday against the Bradley Braves to end the regular season. The last place Braves entered the match winless in conference play and weren’t able to win a match as the Salukis pulled off a 7-0 sweep against the team in Peoria.
The sweep began with No. 1 doubles Delsart and Love and their 8-4 win. At No. 2, Dien and Tomishima swiftly handled their opponents with an 8-3 win. In the closest doubles match of the day, No. 3 twins Ariadna and Gisela Cairo Baza captured an 8-6 win.
The domination continued during singles play as all of the Saluki women won in straight sets. Delsart did not yield a game in her 6-0, 6-0 win. Dien won 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 to snap her three-game losing streak. Lee extended her win streak to four with her 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 3 singles.
Lee said she is finding any way to win her matches.
“I was able to figure out a way to win and make her move, and get another ball back that they didn’t expect me to get back,” Lee said.
Tomishima bounced back from Saturday’s loss with her 6-1, 6-0 win. The Cairo Baza twins rounded out the Saluki sweep at the bottom two seeds with 6-0, 6-4 and 7-6(4-0), 6-4 wins, respectively.
The Salukis enter the MVC Championships in a three-way tie for second place with Drake University and Illinois State. The tiebreaker will be decided based on a formula that considers regular and conference play. Regardless of where the Salukis end up, Nothwehr said the team must get past No. 1 seed Witchita State.
“If you’re the No. 4 seed, you’re going to see Whitcha State in the semi-finals instead of the finals, but you’ve got to see them sometimes,” Nothwehr said. “At this point, we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and not who we are playing and just get it done and come out to play every single time.”