Women’s tennis team shines in singles play


Dillan Schorfheide

Eastern junior Rachel Papavasilopoulos returns a ball in a practice at the Darling Courts. She went 3-0 in singles play over the weekend in Edwardsville.

Blake Faith, Women's Tennis Reporter

The Eastern women’s tennis team began its season achieving its goals of winning, improving and becoming better as a team this week in the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Invite. The team combined for two singles flight championships and one doubles flight championship.

“The biggest thing I wanted to see in this tournament is how we compete,” Head Coach Chris Tolson said. “What was their mindset and effort level going to be at. They met and exceeded my expectations on that. We have to work a little more on doubles before our next event but overall the team took a big step forward in our goal of being ready for conference tourney.

Rachel Papavasilopoulos finished 3-0 in singles play, winning the Flight one bracket. Papavasilopoulos won her first two matches in straights sets by identical scores beating Anouk Maajong of Western Illinois in the first round and Alina Munteanu of Southern Illinois Edwardsville in the second round. Both wins came by a score of 6-0, 6-1.  In her last match Papavasilopoulos beat Cassie McKenzie of Saint Louis in straight sets, 6-0, 6-3. Papavasilopoulos also won in doubles Flight two bracket along with Claire Martin.

“It felt awesome to win both my singles and doubles flights,” Papavasilopoulos said. “Starting out the season on such a strong note definitely gives me the confidence and motivation to keep working hard to produce more great results.”

Emily Pugachevsky also finished 3-0 this weekend, winning the Flight four bracket. Pugachevsky beat Mary Bjelica of Western Illinois in the opening match 6-1, 6-3. She would come back to defeat Raillane Kamden of Southern Illinois Edwardsville in the second match by a score of 7-5, 6-4.  In her last match Pugachevsky beat Ariana Rodriguez of Saint Louis in three sets 6-4, 2-6, 10-4 to win Flight four.

“Emily had a great weekend as well winning her flight,” Tolson said. “She is a fighter on court and never gives up.  As we work on her game she is going to be tough to beat this year.” 

Srishti Slaria and Claire Martin also came up with good weekends. Both won their first two matches in their flights before losing their last matches preventing the Panthers from securing four Flight brackets. 

“I saw great things from both of them. Both of them had great games and were very consistent,” Tolson said. “As we progress and work on their strength and conditioning, their tennis games are going to flourish this season.”

Martin had other thoughts on her performance and what she can improve on.

“In singles, I did come close, but I think in the last match I wasn’t able to figure out my opponent quick enough,” Martin said. “I think next time, I should take more time in between points. In the future I want to work on finishing more points at the net or setting up points in a way that can get me an advantage.

Martin also finished with a doubles flight championship along with Papavasilopoulos. This was their first time playing with one another in tournament play.

“We were really excited to win all three doubles matches. We had never played together, but I think we worked well as a team,” Martin said. “I think we would both agree that we need to continue working on being closer to the net and work to finish the points with our volleys.”

Overall the team finished 18-10 at the Southern Illinois Edwardsville Invite. Tolson got good results for his first invite with the team.

“I am extremely happy with how we performed overall as a team this weekend.  The attitude and effort was great from every athlete,” Tolson said 

 The Eastern women’s team will play next at the Illinois State Fall Invite on Sept. 28 in Normal.

Blake Faith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]