The SIU women’s tennis team prepares for its final two conference matches before the MVC Championships.
Both matches are during the weekend. On Saturday, the Salukis play at Illinois State University, traveling Sunday to Peoria to face Bradley University. The team enters its matches 15-4, tied for second place in the MVC.
The Salukis have been on an impressive streak, with consecutive wins and victories from five of their last six matches.
Junior Melanie Delsart has won 12 out of 14 singles matches at the No. 1 spot since March 1, when she competed against Murray State University. Delsart battled back against Northern Iowa Sunday, turning the first set to win 6-7, (0-8), 6-3, 6-1. Delsart said her winning streak stems from her experience on the court.
“I think it comes with experience. Freshman and sophomore year I was still trying to realize how everything works,” Delsart said. “I’m one of the oldest (players) here so … I try and do everything I can do win. Nothing else matters but the win.”
Coach Audra Nothwehr said her expectations for the team were high heading into the second half of the season after the team played well Oct. 7-9 during the MVC Individual Tournament.
“We did the second best of any team (during the MVC Individual Tournament),” Nothwehr said. “Wichita (State University) took the most first places, but we were the next most with people in the finals. So I kind of thought then that we should be at least second in the conference.”
While Nothwehr said her team plans to take the competition on a match-by-match basis, junior Jennifer Dien said the chance to enter next week’s championships as a top-two seed looms in the players’ minds.
“We’re hoping to be one of the top seeds because that would be really great; it would get us ready for anything,” Dien said.
Sophomore Anita Lee leads the Salukis in doubles, as her and partner junior Anastacia Simons enter the weekend with wins in three out of their last four matches at No. 3 doubles. Lee said her doubles play assists in building momentum for herself during singles play.
“I definitely think that it correlates with each other. Ana and I have built our confidence since the beginning of the year and it’s gotten to a pretty good point in our singles play as well,” Lee said.
The Salukis’ top seeds have been playing well, but it is the play of the lower seeds that has been a steady force for the Salukis.
Freshmen Natasha Tomishima and Ariadna Cairo Baza have both won their last two matches at the fourth and fifth seeds, respectively. Nothwehr said their improved plays shows the growth of their team.
“I think that has been the kind of game-changer at this later point of the season,” Nothwehr said. “They’re freshmen; they don’t know what to expect. They get nervous in the first couple matches, so they would lose early on in the season. [But I] know they’re producing the most consistent wins for us other than Melanie.”