|ISU women’s tennis faces tough test in the Valley|
|Written by Kevin Powell, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Wednesday, 11 April 2012 19:18|
The Missouri Valley Conference is no walk in the park for the ISU women’s tennis team. Nearly every conference foe it faces will test their full abilities.
“Well the conference is tough this year,” ISU head coach Chris Hoover said. “I’m expecting a battle. Wichita State is nationally ranked and they’re probably the favorite in the league. Creighton is a much improved team so they’ll be tough — every time we expect a tough match.”
The Redbirds will face the potent WSU Shockers Saturday at the Gregory Street Tennis Courts in Normal for ISU’s second home meet of the season.
“Wichita has beaten us the past few years,” senior Hannah Esker said. “They’re the ones to beat; all of their girls are going to be tough.”
The Shockers have won their last eight matches including two dominating wins over MVC opponents. WSU won, 6-1, over Evansville on Friday and beat Southern Illinois, 7-0, on Saturday.
WSU’s Carla Venticinque was named MVC women’s tennis Athlete of the Week after winning all six of her singles matches last week, and is 3-0 in conference play.
“If we can give a tough match or beat Wichita we should be in good shape for the conference,” Hoover said.
So far, the ’Birds are 2-1 in MVC play as they beat conference rival Bradley and lost at Drake before winning in convincing fashion against Northern Iowa last Saturday, 6-1. One thing that is for certain is when conference play rolls around in the spring, the intensity level amongst the teams only gets higher.
“Absolutely,” Hoover said when asked if the intensity heats up this time of the year. “Everything gets magnified, we get honed in, and it gets locked down. We are in the part of the season that we gear up for the whole year.
“Practice is more focused and more disciplined and better and hopefully [the student-athletes] are nailing down their school work so they can focus and concentrate.”
Team captain Esker gave similar thoughts on her team’s approach this time of the year.
“We definitely get a lot more intense and focused, and we know it really counts,” Esker said. “Especially going into this weekend against Wichita it is going to be really tough. We will be getting mentally prepared.”
After hosting WSU and Creighton, the ’Birds will face Southern Illinois and Evansville at home the following weekend.
The MVC Championships will be in Omaha, Neb. the weekend of April 27-29, and although the ’Birds want to win as many regular season conference meets as they can, ISU knows that seeding in the tournament does not always mean everything.
“Remember last year we were seeded sixth and went to the finals,” Hoover said of the last season’s conference tournament. “That’s how deep and tough the league is. Any given day, we have to be ready to play.”
For Esker, leaving a lasting legacy at ISU before she graduates this year is a goal she is hoping to achieve.
“That’s something that I have wanted to do since I was a freshman was to win the championship,” Esker said. “Winning would be really awesome.”