Women’s tennis team to play in first tournament without a coach

Parker Valentine, Women's Tennis Reporter


Although they are still without a head coach, the Panthers first practices of the fall went on as scheduled. They are preparing for their first matches of the fall season at SIUE this weekend.

Men’s tennis coach Sam Kercheval has lent a helping hand to the Panthers in terms of bringing out equipment and the necessary supplies for proper training sessions.

Although Kercheval helped the Panthers set up for practice, he is still the men’s coach and had his own practice to take care of as well.

With no head coach to monitor and control practice, the veteran Panthers took charge of their training. They made sure the new additions to the team knew what is expected from Panther athletes from day one.

Freshmen Karla Contreras, Claire Martin, and Rachel Papvasilopoulos are those new additions.

The Panthers freshmen athletes are adapting to a new environment, a new schedule, and new teammates.

Contreras is the only international student of the three. She is originally from Panama City, Panama, although she spent her high school years at the University of Nebraska high school.

UNHS is where she was scouted by Eastern  to become a Panther. According to Contreras, Eastern’s friendly and welcoming environment, along with the work ethic of the Panthers are what sold her on making the move to Charleston.

“People are very nice here, the campus is amazing. I never feel embarrassed to smile at somebody and say hi, I’m looking forward to my four years here,” Contreras said.

“In the two weeks that I’ve been here, I can see that (the Panthers) really want to work hard and move forward. We want to get to the tournaments by working hard and playing hard.”

Martin had the shortest trip to Eastern, she is from Chesterfield, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

The short distance between Eastern and home was one of the main reasons she came to Eastern, along with the inclusiveness of the team.

“I wanted to go somewhere within a four-hour distance of home, I wanted to play tennis, and I wanted a smaller school,” Martin said. “So far the team has been very inclusive, they’ve tried to make an effort to help out the freshmen. If we need anything, they are there for us.”

Papvasilopoulos rounds out the Panthers freshman class. Originally from Boca Raton, Florida, Papvasilopoulos made the move to Eastern based on chemistry with her teammates and the strong academic environment Eastern provides.

“I like the balance between academics and athletics, that’s not something you see that much in D-1 schools . . . the general athletic atmosphere is really supportive, I feel comfortable here,” Papvasilopoulos said.

The Panthers head to Edwardsville for the SIUE fall tournament this weekend, without a coach, which has become a mainstay on their fall schedule.

“We have a strong bond as a team, I think that’s going to help us. We’ve been practicing on our own and putting in work the same way we would with a coach. It would be better with a coach, but we’re working with what we got,” sophomore Emily Pugachevsky said.

Fall tournaments have a different format than spring matches. They play in a bracket style with athletes from multiple schools competing against each other.

The beginning draws are picked at random, sometimes athletes from the same school will face each other at these events. Although still competitive, this is the closest thing to a friendly meet to see in college tennis.

Play starts this Friday and goes through Sunday.

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