|ISU readies for 2012 fall season|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette, Sports Editor|
|Thursday, 30 August 2012 16:56|
After falling short of the Missouri Valley Conference championship in April, the Illinois State men’s tennis team is looking to its leaders to guide the team away from a repeat of last season.
The Redbirds fell to No .48 Drake in the semi final round of the MVC Tournament.
“Last year was a big realization for us,” head men’s tennis coach, Cris James, said. “I think we had a really talented team, but we underperformed a little bit at the end of the year, so just realizing how much we need to start with the team concept and leadership and just all being together on the same page is a big focus for us."
The Redbirds began practice for the fall season at the commencement of 2012 school year, and plan to use it to prepare for the 2013 spring season in order to reach their goals, while focusing on developing leadership and team chemistry.
“One of our goals every year is to win the conference and try to qualify for the NCAA Tournament,” James said. “We’re trying to make a mark on the national level as well, so top 50 nationally is a goal, but that’s a little ways off — right now we’re just trying to prepare.”
James hopes that by creating a more team-oriented atmosphere and having players emerge as leaders, the team will be on the right track to reaching its goals.
“Alex Pelaez is our only senior, and he’s been one of the top two or three players in the conference pretty much ever since he got here,” James said. “We need to have a big year from him, both on the court from a performance standpoint, but also in the leadership role … he’s off to a good start with that so far.”
James also has plans to work hard on the recruiting side of the sport in order to grow the currently limited roster.
“We have a small team right now — we’re hopefully going to add a couple more guys in January,” James said. “[But] we do have two new guys — one’s a transfer from central Florida [and he’s] a pretty good player, so hopefully he’ll do well.
“I’m just going to be working hard on the recruiting side and making sure we can add a couple more pieces to the team.”
Sophomore Muddappa Appanervanda shares similar team goals with Coach James and plans to fulfill a leadership role on the team as well.
“I’m going to try to motivate the freshmen and set a good example for the younger players,” Appanervanda said.
“Also, my record last year wasn’t very good, so I’m trying to improve on that, and as a team we want to win the conference championship this year.”
Illinois State will head to Kalamazoo, Mich., on Sept. 14-16 to begin the fall season, where they will compete in the Western Michigan Invite.
“We want to see where everyone is at from a playing standpoint,” James said, “but we really want to use it as sort of a team building [opportunity] … Hopefully we can do that during [the Western Michigan Invite] and get off on the right foot.”