An impressive record of 20-7 (5-0 MVC) and a trip to the NCAA Tournament just a year ago had lots of excitement buzzing around Illinois State University women’s tennis as spring approached.
Unfortunately, the Redbirds will have to wait and see what is next, due to the cancellation of NCAA athletics for the time being amid COVID-19 sweeping the nation.
The Redbirds held an overall record of 6-7 and were in the midst of a six-game road trip before the announcement which put a halt to all college athletics.
Entering her fifth season at the helm of the program, head coach Maja Kovacek is one of many trying to adapt to a life without sports.
“We are all trying to do our best in this ‘new normal’ to stay productive and positive, making sure we keep in contact a lot and keep a light atmosphere,” Kovacek said. “Personally, it’s hard and still surreal to think we won’t compete until the fall and I won’t see my team for five months.”
Although there comes a disappointment to the thought of not competing, the overall concern of health and safety of the team is a bigger priority for Kovacek.
The team features a roster of seven players, all of whom are from outside the United States.
“Immediately after the season ended my first priority was to make sure my players get back to their families safely,” Kovacek said. “Several of them are in strict quarantines now in their home countries and everyone is trying to adjust to online classes.”
While the sports world may be on pause for now, the fifth-year head coach is preparing for the next time her team will take the courts, whenever that may be.
“After taking care of the logistics of canceled matches and trips, my focus is now on recruiting and supporting my players in any way I can,” Kovacek said. “My hope is that we can go back to business as usual in August and I’m sure we will all have a bigger appreciation of the opportunity we have to be a part of collegiate athletics at ISU.”
The Redbirds are currently scheduled to begin their fall season opener on Sept. 14 against Chicago State as part of the Cougar Invite.