Eastern opens OVC play with win

Dillan Schorfheide, Women's Tennis Reporter

With the score tied 3-3, freshman Claire Martin found herself in position to earn the winning point for Eastern’s women’s tennis team Friday and did so in straight sets to give Eastern a conference-opening victory.

Martin’s 7-6, 6-3 victory over Jacksonville State’s Marine Alberteau saved Eastern from losing the match it had led for most of the day Friday in Danville.

It also gave the Panthers (7-9, 1-0) a good starting point for conference play and Jacksonville State its first conference loss of the season.

“It was the best feeling,” Martin said about Eastern winning the conference match. “That’s the most excited I’ve been all year because I loved contributing to the team’s win.”

Going into the match, she said she did not have any other expectations other than she knew Eastern would be able to compete with Jacksonville State.

“While watching the matches before I went on I saw they were definitely good but it looked like we could definitely play with them,” Martin said.

Eastern had a 3-2 lead after winning the doubles point and after singles wins from senior Grace Summers and sophomore Emily Pugachevsky, but Jacksonville State tied the match at 3-3 when Diana Monslave won 6-2, 6-2 over Eastern freshman Karla Contreras. Contreras and Pugachevsky secured Eastern’s doubles point with a win over Jacksonville State duo Alba Conejero and Malin Buechner.

Even though the outcome of the match then rested on Martin’s shoulders, she said she had no idea the match was tied 3-3 and that her singles point would decide the winner.

“I knew it either had to be 4-2 or 3-3 but I tried not to think of it,” she said. “I knew if I put too much pressure on myself or thought about the score that wouldn’t have been good so I put that all aside and just focused on each point.”

Martin said coach Sam Kercheval told her to work on keeping the ball crosscourt and also on her recovery shot to give herself more time in the point.

Those two things, along with the fact that she was able to count on her serve, helped her get the victory, she said.

Along with Pugachevsky and Contreras’ 6-2 doubles victory, Summers and sophomore partner Stella Cliffe also won their doubles match 6-2 to give Eastern an important step ahead going into singles play.

Summers extended the Panthers’ lead to 2-0 by defeating her singles opponent, Alessia Locati, 6-2, 6-3. Jacksonville State took two straight points before Pugachevsky’s win and Martin’s victory-clinching singles point.

Eastern’s next match is scheduled for Tuesday at the Darling Courts at 2 p.m. against Southern Illinois Edwardsville, but the location of the match may be changed based on weather conditions.

Southern Illinois Edwardsville is 0-12 overall and 0-1 in conference play, with its only conference match being a 6-1 loss to Jacksonville State.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]