The University of South Dakota women’s tennis team kicked off their fall season this weekend against six other teams from Wisconsin and Illinois at the Chicago State Invitational.
The team was looking for a strong start to their season with four new members playing their first matches as Coyotes. Coach Malcolm Gilreath said he saw not only effort, but also plenty of strong tennis by the girls.
“It was great to see the new players compete under competitive environments,” Gilreath said. “It’s always nice to see players do well, but it’s also nice to see what we can improve on. The second day of doubles, we had some pretty competitive matches. The first day, you’re just getting used to each other. So, I was pretty pleased with that.”
Gilreath said before the tournament that doubles is an area he was hoping to see the team improve on from last season. During the spring dual season, the doubles points often turn out to be critical, and double’s success can carry over to singles success for most teams.
The team played a number of different combinations of girls in doubles this weekend, allowing some teams to get their first feel as a duo.
Junior Rymma Maslova and first-year Dragana Brankovic were among those teams who had never played together but showed improvement in just one day. The two lost their first match Friday to a team from Bradley University, 8-5, but immediately bounced back for their first win as a team against two girls from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, 8-3.
“We lost some very close matches, but other than that, we did very well,” Gilreath said. “A few times we were playing teams and players who have already competed together, and so for us to be playing close to them, I was happy with how the team competed.”
As far as singles, the Coyotes also saw some success in their first set of matches. Junior Nina Barudzic had one of the better singles performances for the team. Barudzic made her way into the semifinals in her singles flight.
Maslova and Brankovic competed in the invitational’s top two singles flights and each picked up wins.
“The girls all feel like they played well and had some great opportunities. They all know they have things to work on, and we’re excited for that,” Gilreath said.
The Coyotes will turn around quickly and head to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for the Minnesota Invitational next weekend. Coach Gilreath said the team knows the tournament is also a step up from the tournament in Chicago.
“That’s a very strong tournament,” Gilreath said. “It’s probably the strongest tournament we’ll play this fall season. That’s why we schedule it.”
The team will begin play against teams such as Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, North Dakota and South Dakota State this Friday on the University of Minnesota campus.