Panthers ‘excited’ for conference tournament

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

The Eastern women’s tennis team has a couple of days to prepare for its upcoming Ohio Valley Conference tournament matchup with Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Friday.

The Panthers are coming off two losses against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State in their final two games of the regular season, which dropped the Panthers to a No. 5 seed in the conference tournament.

Eastern coach John Blackburn said a ‘new season’ starts Friday.

“That’s all we’re focusing on right now,” he said.

Blackburn said his team cannot be worried about where they are seeded.

“We really can’t be concerned about the past and how the tournament is seeded,” he said. “We are in. We have as much of an opportunity to win as anyone. We just need to focus on playing at the highest level possible.”

This is the fifth-straight year the Panthers have reached the conference tournament dating back to the 2010 season.

Eastern lost to Morehead State last year in the first round of the conference tournament, 4-1.

Blackburn said his team is excited to be competing in the tournament again this year.

“It is a great experience for us to play in Nashville,” he said. “We plan on making the most out of it. We feel like we can play with anyone in the draw and be very successful if we bring our best to the matches.”

Eastern failed to earn both doubles points in the two matches Friday and Saturday.

“We think doubles will be a very important part of match on Friday, along with trying to maximize our strengths and be aware what our opponents bring to the table,” Blackburn said.

In the matches Friday and Saturday, Eastern senior Sephora Boulbahaiem and freshman Grace Summers were able to win both of their singles matches.

Blackburn said he was impressed with the way those two played over the weekend.

“I think we played well in a lot of our matches,” he said. “Grace and Sephora played very good singles all weekend and really led the team, which was awesome to see.”

Eastern will play Edwardsville at 10 a.m. Friday in Nashville, Tenn. The Cougars are the No. 4 seed in the tournament.

Murray State, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky are the top three seeds. Murray State, who is the No. 1 seed in the tournament, and Eastern Kentucky, who is the No. 2 seed, both have 9-1 records in the conference this season.

Eastern lost to Edwardsville earlier in the season, 7-0, in Edwardsville.

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].