Women’s tennis team to open season at SIUE this weekend

Parker Valentine, Women's Tennis Reporter

The Eastern women’s tennis team has a few new faces on its roster this season, and Coach Emily Wang will get her first look at her team this weekend at the SIUE invitational.

The Panthers play two singles matches and one doubles match on Friday and two doubles and one singles match Saturday.

The other teams matching up in the invite are the home team Cougars of Southern Illinois Edwardsville, the Saint Louis Billikens and the Bradley Braves.

Coach Emily Wang is preparing the team to be alert and expect anything because of the amount of freshman on the opposing teams. The opposing teams have a combined six freshmen at the meet. New players often offer new styles, and therefore techniques must be sharpened in practice.

“We are going to use this opportunity to grow as a team and evaluate the parts of our game that are strong and the parts of our game that need some work,” Wang said.

Senior Kelly Iden normally plays both doubles and singles for the Panthers, but she will be limited to just doubles. Junior Grace Summers and freshman Emily Pugachevsky will both be inactive in the team’s first invitational.

Iden and Summers have been limited at practice following illnesses.

Pugachevsky is recovering from a stress fracture, but she will return when fully healthy.

The entire Panther team is dedicated to growing with each other and giving this school a good name, as well as a continuous reputation as a strong tennis program.

“We bleed blue!” Abby Carpenter said, which received cheers from her teammates.

The Panthers do not treat any team differently. No more focus is given to one team than the others, but it was also made clear that beating SIUE would give sweet revenge from a close regular-season loss last year and it might be a sign of things to come this year.

“They are one of our bigger rivals,” the team said.

SIUE is also the only team the Panthers played in last year’s regular season.

The Cougars are led by stand out senior Lexi Aranda, who was named to the all OVC team for the second-straight year in the 2015-2016 regular season.

After starting strong in doubles play with Summers and alumna Hannah Kimbrough beating Xiwei Cai and Ana Sofia Cordero [7-6 (5)] and Iden and alumna Ali Foster beating Victoria Beirao and Meagen Monaghan [6-4] the Panthers fell in 5 of their 6 singles matches with Summers getting the team’s only win.

Saint Louis comes into the invitational led by Coach Jonathan Zych who has been coaching the Saint Louis men’s and women’s teams for 16 years.

Saint Louis has consistently bested Eastern as of late with eight straight match victories. But although Eastern does not play them in the regular season this year, the goal is to wash away those defeats and start a new streak by defeating them at this invite.

Bradley is a different story. Although the Braves hold a slight series edge over the Panthers (16-15), Eastern has won eight straight matches against them. This will be the first of two times the Panthers meet them, the second coming at Bradley’s own invitational Sept. 23 through Sept. 25.

Parker Valentine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].