Freshmen making mark on tennis teams


Sean Hastings

Freshman Karla Contreras backhands the ball to sophomore Stella Cliffe in practice Thursday at the Darling Courts. Contreras is one of four freshmen on the women’s tennis team.

Parker Valentine, Tennis Reporter

As the fall season progresses, the Eastern men and women’s tennis teams are seeing a youth movement on the court.

The Panthers have four freshmen who recorded wins in the first tournament of their college careers.

Karla Contreras and Logan Charbonneau both earned wins in their very first match as a Panther.

Charbonneau defeated Marquette’s Andre Romanello in straight sets (6-2, 6-4), at the River Forest fall invitational two weekends ago.

“I broke him down well on his back-end side. His demeanor wasn’t shaping up, so when I saw him down in the dumps, I took it took him even more,” Charbonneau said.

Charbonneau says his forehand worked well for him the entire match. It was his go-to swing.

Contreras not only won her first match, she won the championship for her entire bracket at the SIUE fall invitational. The invite was her first as a Panther.

In her first match, Contreras defeated Maria Bessmertnaya of Western Illinois (6-1, 6-2). The freshman then defeated Ariana Rodriguez of St. Louis University in the second round (6-1, 6-4) to advance to her championship.

Contreras’ championship victory came with a little less ease. The freshman was taken to three sets by SIUE’s Lara Tupper. After losing the first set, Contreras won the second, before grinding out an intense third set victory (3-6, 6-2, 12-10).

“It was a good start. I really like the competition. I wanted to fight. I wanted to play well. I worked with not only what I like, I worked with their weaknesses,” Contreras said.

Kaisei Kuroki bounced back from an opening round loss in his first match with Eastern.

He earned a win in the very next match he played, defeating UIC’s Niko Wasilevicz in a four-point tie break (5-7, 6-2 [4]).

“He had a big serve, but I was able to put everything on the court. It affected him because his serve was his strength. He was tall; he could not move very fast. My speed got to him,” Kuroki said.

Charbonneau describes Kuroki as a “speed demon”.

Coach Sam Kercheval has taken notice of his passionate freshmen.

“They both show great passion for the game,” Kercheval said. “With both of them, we saw right away they have strong character and have a lot to contribute to the development of our program.” 

Rachel Papavasilopoulus also found success in her first fall invite with the Panthers.

The freshman earned a doubles win at SIUE with partner Stella Cliffe. The duo defeated SIUE’s Tupper and Morgan Steffes 6-2, finishing third in their doubles bracket.

Papavasilopoulos’ success continued at the Panthers’ very next invite.

The freshman earned two singles wins at Bradley over the weekend, before she withdrew from her flight championship due to injury.

Freshman Claire Martin earned multiple victories in Peoria as well.

Martin, along with doubles partner junior Shristi Slaria, defeated Illinois State duo Laura Fitzgerald and Valerija Gercar 6-3.

After dispatching the Redbird duo, Martin and Slaria went on to defeat Depaul duo Alina Kuzmenkova and Milica Tesic 6-3, advancing to their flight championship.

The Panther men and women will be back in action this weekend for the Eastern alumni matches at the Darling tennis courts.

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