The women’s tennis team will lose two seniors, but will still thrive with the returning and incoming players.
Senior Hannah Kimbrough ended her career as a Panther with a 30-28 record in singles play. Kimbrough split her playing time between the No. 4 and No. 5 spots.
Kimbrough also holds the all-time record of 43-20 when partnering with another team member. She and her partner, sophomore Grace Summers, dropped just one conference match this season, earning a 7-1 Ohio Valley Conference record. The duo was also an impressive 15-4 on the season.
Senior Ali Foster ended her final season at Eastern with a 14-6 singles record. In doubles, Foster and partner junior Kelly Iden were 14-4 on the season and posted a perfect 8-0 conference record.
In her junior year, Foster was named Second Team All-OVC with her team-leading 16-4 singles record.
The tennis squad will have three seniors next season as juniors Kamile Stadalninkaite, Maria Moshteva and Iden come back for their final year.
Iden posted a 9-9 singles record this season and went 5-4 in OVC singles play.
Stadalninkaite earned a 5-4 record and lost just one of her three OVC matchups.
Moshteva competed in and won one singles match this season.
Kimbrough said the juniors will be impactful leaders for the younger members of the team.
“Having three seniors will be a major asset for the team,” Kimbrough said. “I think that Kamile, Kelly and Maria will be able to help the younger girls learn from their experiences the past three years.”
Summers is the lone sophomore coming back for the Panthers.
Summers dropped just one singles match at the beginning of the season, putting her at 20-1 this spring. She also swept all 10 of her conference.
Freshmen Srishti Slaria, Abby Carpenter and Leah Lines will add their second year to their careers.
Slaria had a whirlwind start to her career at Eastern; she earned an 11-6 singles record and posted a 13-4 doubles record with Stadalninkaite.
Carpenter impressed with her 7-3 singles record on the season. She dropped just one of her six conference matches.
Carpenter made just one appearance in doubles play when she and Foster teamed up in the semifinals of the conference tournament; the duo was defeated, making the pair 0-1.
Head Coach Emily Wang will also be returning for her second year with the Eastern women’s tennis program.
Wang announced her first signing in the fall season. The team will gain newcomer Emily Pugachevsky who signed a letter of intent to join the Panthers in the fall of the 2016-17 season.
Wang told reporters from Eastern’s athletic website that she and the team have welcomed Pugachevsky with open arms.
“The team and I are very excited to welcome Emily to EIU Tennis,” Wang said. “She is a strong player and a fighter on the court. She will fit in great with the EIU tennis culture of working hard and getting the job done.”
The tennis team had a rough start to their spring season; they opened with a road loss to the University of Illinois Fighting Illini in a 0-7 decision.
The Panthers went on to earn 11 sweeps of their own with five of them posted over OVC rivals.
The squad lost just three of their 10 conference matches and earned the No. 4 seed in the OVC tournament.
The first round of the tournament was a complete success for Eastern as they swept Austin Peay 4-0.
The spring season came to a close when the Panthers fell to No.1 Tennessee-Martin in the semifinals.
Kimbrough said that even though losing the match was difficult, her teammates rallied around her and Foster to turn the loss into a special moment.
“Although losing our match in the semis was one of the more painful moments of the season, the way all of my teammates supported me and Ali after that match was a really special moment,” Kimbrough said.
Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]