|ISU women's tennis team looks forward to Valley tournament|
|Written by Kevin Powell, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Thursday, 26 April 2012 15:45|
After finishing 5-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference during the regular season, the Illinois State women’s tennis team finished in a three-way tie for second place, which earned the Redbirds a No. 2 seed in this weekend’s MVC tournament in Omaha, Neb.
“We’re a little banged up,” ISU head coach Chris Hoover said of his team. “We’re trying to rest some people [before the tournament] and get ourselves healthy. As long as we’re physically able to get out there, were going to give it our best shot and try to get a title.”
Among the ailing players are sophomore Phyllis Tigges with a back issue, junior Ariane Maack with shoulder problems, and sophomore Caroline Abello with knee troubles.
“I’ve given them a few days to rest and hopefully that helps us,” Hoover said.
Hoover knows his team is resilient as they have continued to compete after a few regular season struggles and all of the injuries.
“I’m actually a little surprised, I thought we would do a little better this year,” Hoover said. “But the team has been able to continue to bounce back and the group comes every day and brings their best and they want to succeed. This is one of the hardest working bunches of players I’ve been around. They’ve stayed steady and when things haven’t gone right we have responded.”
Senior Hannah Esker has been leading the way for the Redbirds and will compete in her final MVC tournament. Esker has been a team captain since her sophomore year.
“Being voted by the team, it makes me feel good,” Esker said. “My teammates trust and respect me and it’s just a good feeling to have that kind of relationship with your team.”
Hoover knows that he has strong players in Esker and senior Aniko Kiss, who will also battle in her final conference tournament.
“Hannah Esker has just been a pretty amazing three-year captain. She was a Missouri Valley Elite 18 winner last year,” Hoover said. “She’s a stellar athlete, a Bone Scholar nominee … she was just amazing.”
Kiss has been one of the top performers on the court for the ’Birds since she joined the team in 2009. In 2010 she was named to the 2010 All-MVC Select Team, and has competed in the No. 1 position.
“Aniko didn’t join us until her sophomore year,” said Hoover. “Playing from the number one spot — that’s the most difficult spot to play and she’s had a great season.”
The two seniors will get their first crack in the tournament on Friday when the ’Birds take on the Creighton Bluejays. ISU beat the ’Jays in dominating fashion just two weeks ago, 6-1, but Hoover knows his team has to be ready to compete.
“Well, we’re not one hundred percent healthy; we’re taking nothing for granted and we’re going to give it our best out of the gate,” Hoover said.
If the ’Birds win their opening round match they will either face Drake, who defeated them, 6-1, in early April, or Northern Iowa, who ISU beat, 6-1, on April 8.
“I definitely want this to be a good year,” Esker said. “But I’m feeling kind of sad [with my career coming to an end] … I don’t want to have any regrets when I’m done and I want to put it all out there.”