|ISU men's tennis team looks forward to Valley tournament|
|Written by Kevin Powell, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Thursday, 26 April 2012 15:41|
A long grueling regular season has left the Illinois State men’s tennis team bruised before this weekend’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament in Omaha, Neb. But the Redbirds remain with a strong attitude.
“I am hopeful and optimistic [about the MVC tournament],” ISU head coach Cris James said. “We are pretty banged up with some injuries. I’ve been trying to get these guys as much rest as possible. We need to get healthy as possible to play at a high level and at our best.”
Jusso Ojanen, Muddapa Appanervanda, and Alexander Pelaez have all had nagging injuries, but each should be ready to go for the tournament.
ISU will face off against Southern Illinois, a team they squeaked by on Sunday with a win, 4-3.
“We just played [SIU] on Sunday, and it was a pretty close match,” James said. “Alex [Pelaez] didn’t play singles and he makes a big difference when he is in.”
Pelaez believes he is ready for the tournament despite the bumps and bruises.
“I feel good. I’m excited about [the tournament],” the junior Pelaez said. “I feel like a little sore in my back and shoulder and I hope I’m going to be OK, but no matter what I’m going to play.”
Senior Skip Span is among the Redbirds looking forward to the tournament as he will be competing in his final MVC tournament. Span knows that his team is battling some injuries, and knows the tournament will be no easy task.
“Obviously it’s been a long season, and we played a lot of matches and players aren’t feeling one hundred percent,” Span said. “It’s going to be a tough weekend with tough matches and competition.”
Despite the physical pains the team may be facing, Pelaez believes the team can give a worthy showing.
“I think we have a bunch of guys that want to play and we feel we can beat anyone no matter the struggles of the season, and everybody is excited to play,” Pelaez said.
The ’Birds will begin their first match on Friday, and will either face Drake or Creighton in the second round.
“It’s surreal,” Span said of this weekend being his last MVC tournament. “I never expected it to go by this quickly. I’m excited to go out with a bang and see how good we can do.”
James hopes Span can finish his ISU career on a strong note and give a strong performance.
“I know he really badly wants to win a conference title, and wants to make the NCAA tournament, that’s a huge goal for him,” James said. “He’s gone through some great stretches this year and has struggled at times.”
ISU finished their regular season with a 2-3 MVC record, and finished in a three-way tie for third in the conference.