OVC tournament on the horizon for Eastern women’s tennis team

Parker Valentine, Women's Tennis Reporter


The Panthers start the Ohio Valley Conference tournament for a record sixth time in a row in Nashville on Friday.

This six straight tournament berths are the longest streak in Panther history. Before this season the longest streak was five straight, from 2001-2005.

The Panthers are 16-19 all time in OVC tournament play. After winning their first-round match last year, they were defeated by UT-Martin in the semi-finals 4-3.

Eastern earned the No. 4 seed during the regular season. They finished the season with an identical conference record as Southeast Missouri at 5-4.

The Panther’s earned the tie break against the Redhawks a week ago when they defeated the them 4-3.

In that match, the Panthers came back to win after dropping the doubles point.

“(SEMO’s) line up and playing style is fresh in our minds from playing last weekend so that will be good because we know what we need to do based on our matches last week,” coach Emily Wang said. “We will look to come out strong and get a good start in doubles to get the doubles point.”

The doubles point is very important. To advance in the tournament bracket, whichever team gets to four points first advances and play is stopped.

With competition opening with the doubles point, teams play with an immediate sense of urgency.

Typically, during the regular season, players have unlimited time to complete their matches. In tournament play, it’s a race to the finish.

“(Players) try to keep the points going as long as possible so you can come back or others on the team win their matches before you finish,” said Wang.

Wang will not be the only Panther coach at the tournament. Men’s tennis coach Sam Kercheval will travel to Nashville with the Panthers. He will be an assistant coach and help the team in any way he can.

“It will be extremely helpful to me and the team to have an additional coach out there. I am very thankful that he is taking the time to travel this weekend to help coach the team.”

These matches will be special for the Panthers senior class. These will be the last matches the seniors play for the Panthers and is their fourth tournament.

“The conference tournament is even more competitive than the spring season, as it will be our second time facing some of the teams. The atmosphere is lively and fun, as we are all fighting to win the OVC Championship,” Iden said.

“The tournament is a lot of fun. You can see all the best teams in the conference all in one place competing. There’s a different amount of pressure when it’s all or nothing,” senior Kamile Stadalninkaite said.

The teams that round out the bracket are No.1 undefeated Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, No. 2 UT-Martin, No.3 Eastern Kentucky, and No.6 Murray State.

Although the weekend will have a very intense environment, coach Wang has tried to keep things fun in the practices leading up to the tourney.

“Our preparation has not been much different than usual. I did try to incorporate some fun things this week to keep the players relaxed. We did an Easter basket hunt on Monday and played some fun games on Tuesday for Grace’s birthday,” Wang said. “Everyone had a great week of practice and I am confident that we are ready for the tournament this weekend.”

Match play begins against the Redhawks at 10 a.m.Friday in Nashville.

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