Success is something the Eastern women’s tennis team has had in previous years, and 2016 could be the team’s sixth-straight Ohio Valley Conference Tournament birth.
Eastern lost a pair of seniors to graduation at the end of the 2016 spring season. Ali Foster and Hannah Kimbrough were the only two seniors on last year’s team.
Foster had the second-best record on the team behind junior Grace Summers. Kimbrough played at No. 1 doubles with Summers, the duo posted a 15-4 overall record and a 7-1 OVC play.
The doubles pairing of Foster and senior, Kelly Iden combined to finish a perfect 8-0 in OVC play.
Head coach Emily Wang’s team finished with an overall record of 14-8 in 2015, finishing 5-1 at home and 8-6 on the road with an even record of 1-1 at neutral sites.
When they did win, they won in dominant fashion sweeping teams in 10-of-14 victories. A key will be finding consistency and ways to squeeze out wins in tight, competitive matches. Wang believes this team can do anything they set their mind to, she said.
The Panthers will be led by Summers in 2016-17 after finishing with a nearly perfect record of 20-1 (10-0 in tournament play). The record is second to only Geeta Dua in Eastern history. Her only loss came on the road to the University of Illinios in the season opener.
That accomplishment earned her all Ohio Valley Conference honors as a sophomore last year.
Senior Kelly Iden, second-team all OVC honors in 2015 also figures to be a team leader this season. With six players, including Grace and Kelly, with previous collegiate experience the team aims for continued success.
Sophomore Abby Carpenter, senior Maria Moshteva, sophomore Srishti Slaria, and senior Kamile Stadalninkaite are looking to expand their resumes this year, while freshmen Shelby Anderson, Stella Cliff, and Emily Pugachevsky will also look to make an impact throughout the season.
Building on the culture of further success and integrity were first and foremost for Wang.
She emphasized consistency and teamwork, as well as always finding new ways for her athletes to push each other to grow as a unit. Not becoming comfortable with where they are, but looking to find new ways to grow as a team and as student athletes is key.
The Panthers will open their season on the road at the Southern Illinois Edwardsville invite Sept. 9, followed by a trip to Southern Illinois-Carbondale and Bradley.
Eastern will play its first home match at the Darling Courts Oct. 15 for EIU Alumni Weekend. They will wrap up their fall season on the road in East Lansing, Mich. for the ITA Midwest Regional on the campus of Michigan State.
Dominating the conference will also be a point of emphasis for the Panthers as it was last year, when they finished 7-3 in conference play. The next step, of course, is winning the OVC tournament, avenging last year’s close yet tough loss to No.1 ranked University of Tennessee- Martin.
Parker Valentine can be reached 581-2812 or [email protected]