The University of South Dakota women’s tennis team spent its spring break in Florida, playing matches against five schools, coming home with three wins.
The women beat University of Southern Indiana 6-1, Saint Joseph’s University 4-3 and Robert Morris University 7-0. The Coyotes lost to St. John’s University 0-7 and James Madison University 0-7.
“When we played Saint Jospeh’s two years ago, they beat us 7-0,” head coach Malcolm Gilreath said. “This year we beat them 4-3, which is excellent, and it took a lot of work.”
Gilreath said these matches were stepping stones for the rest of the season.
“We won; we beat some Division I teams, so that brings a lot of confidence and shows that we are on the right path,” Gilreath said. “If you lose to a team 7-0 two years ago and then you beat them, it’s a compliment when they want to schedule you again, so that’s very positive. Our doubles also helped a lot last week.”
Junior Shadi Soleymani said that while the matches went well in Florida, she thought there were some doubles matches where the women could have done better.
“It went better and better for every match we played so that’s always good,” Soleymani said.
For sophomore Marina Kiefer, she said her matches went pretty well over spring break, with the exception of her last match where, she said, she was beaten pretty badly.
“One of the things we learned was how to fight and how to stay in a match,” Kiefer said. “We also figured out how to come back, and I think we really played our individual games well and we gained more consistency by playing towards our strengths, which will help us in our next matches.”
Soleymani said she is finally back to her match mentality after having surgery in October.
“The more I played, the better I was doing,” Soleymani said. “By the end of the week, I was back to my old game, which was nice.”
March 25-26 the women will head to Las Vegas, Nev., to play matches against Idaho State University, Southern Utah University and Seattle University.
Southern Utah is currently one of the top teams in the Summit League, so that match will be helpful for future meetings, Gilreath said. The team doesn’t know much about Idaho State, and the match against Seattle will go towards the Great West Conference seeding, he said.
“Seattle will definitely be a match we have to pay attention to,” Gilreath said. “They beat us last year 6-1, and it will be important because of the Great West Conference tournament.”
Although she said she didn’t know what to expect from Idaho State or Southern Utah, Soleymani said the team should be able to compete against Seattle, since they have played them before.
“I think we’ll be able to play really well against Seattle,” Kiefer said. “We played them last year and I had a close match with the number one or two. With our line up, I think we’ll be able to do well with them.”
The women will continue to work on their doubles and their hitting, Gilreath said, so they can be in position to get the first point in.
“It’s going to be very competitive at every position,” Gilreath said. “Each point is going to be important. We’re looking forward to it. We’ve never taken our team out to Las Vegas. We’ve been to the Air Force, and the altitude shouldn’t be as bad. The only thing we’ll be concerned with is the heat.”
The team will take their past mistakes to help them in future matches, Kiefer said.
“Each match from here on out will be tough,” Kiefer said. “We just have to play our best and do what we have to do to win.”