Women’s tennis off to best start since 2014

Parker Valentine, Women's Tennis Reporter


As the women’s tennis team gets deeper into their season, each meet seems to show even more progress than the last.

The Panthers are off to their strongest start since the 2014 season. In 2014 they started 6-0 and are one win behind tying that record this season.

The team has gotten even stronger as the season has progressed. This past weekend at Bradley, then at IUPUI, the Panthers dropped only one match collectively. The Panthers went a collective 12-0 in singles and 5-1 in doubles play.

“The expectations continue to increase. We expect to get better and better after each week of practice,” senior Kamile Stadalninkaite said. Stadalninkaite’s favorite event is doubles, where her and partner junior Grace Summers, are 4-1 on the season.

Although the Panthers have achieved great success so far this season, their season goals aren’t nearly completed.

“Our goal is to pull out the close matches, and then also to make it to the conference tournament and win it this year,” Said Summers.

Summers is 4-1 in singles play this season. After bouncing back from a week one loss against Southern Illinois-Carbondale, Summers hasn’t looked back. She has won four straight matches.

The No.1 position for the Panthers is senior Kelly Iden. From her No. 1 spot, Iden has remained undefeated throughout the season (5-0), facing some of the other teams’ toughest competition.

Although the upper classmen have had solid seasons, success on the Panthers is not based on age. Two strong contributors on the team are freshmen Stella Cliffe and Emily Pugachevsky, both of whom are undefeated. Cliffe has held down the No. 3 spot all season and has achieved a record of 5-0.

Pugachevsky saw her first action of the season against Wright State. She has remained undefeated since then, earning a record of 3-0 in singles competition. She is also undefeated in doubles play, where she and partner sophomore Shristi Slaria hold a record of 2-0.

“The younger contributors add enthusiasm and enjoyment to the team, which help increase our energy and competitive-edge,” Iden said. “I knew from our first team practice in the fall that we were going to be a successful team. We are a hard-working team motivated and excited to achieve our goals this spring.”

Coach Emily Wang has instilled a strong sense of discipline in this group of athletes.

“Win or lose there is always something to be learned. Even when we win 7-0, a lot of the matches are close and we pin point strategies or techniques that we need to improve upon the following week of practice,” Wang said.

Although Wang stresses discipline and growth, she still leaves room to have some fun, especially with the success this team has achieved.

“Every once in a while I will reward them with a game day at practice or ice cream on the road,” said Wang. “The biggest treat is to continue winning and dominate once we get into the co- detente portion of our season.”

Having fun is not lost on the players either. “One of my favorite parts of being a part of this team is all the jokes and fun we have while we are on the road. We are a unique team,” said Slaria.

As seniors, Iden and Stadalninkaite understand as well as anybody, the importance of this bond.

“We are a very close team both on and off the court. Off the court, we spend a lot of time together including going to other sporting events, helping in the community, and having team dinners,” Iden said.

“From freshmen to seniors we are all equally friends off the court. We care a lot about each other and it translates on to the court when we compete,” Stadalninkaite said.

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