It’s not spring, and it’s not team dual season, but the University of South Dakota women’s tennis team is already gearing up for their first matches of the school year.
The young team will travel to Chicago, Ill. this weekend to begin their season in the Chicago State Invitational.
The team is returning five players, but four new faces will showcase themselves as Coyotes for the first time this weekend.
Coach Malcolm Gilreath is ready for the upcoming fall season and especially excited to start it all with the seven-team invite in Chicago.
“It will be a good one for the ladies to start on,” Gilreath said. “We’re going to drive down there and have some fun. They’ll get a lot of match experience without the pressure of a dual meet. So, that’s good.”
Gilreath was quick to mention the level of experience the girls possess – even the girls coming in as first-years.
“We have a very nice mix of experienced players coming back and experienced players coming in,” Gilreath said. “Freshmen are coming in at a high level. It has been really neat to watch the ladies come together.”
The three first-year Coyotes are Marina Arriola from Las Vegas, Nev.; Dragana Brankovic from Frankfurt, Germany and Ana Jelena Vujosevic from Monza, Italy. Also arriving on campus to join the team this year is Rymma Maslova, who transferred from the University of Nevada.
Despite the youth, the team will still pack a heavy punch of upperclassman leadership throughout fall and spring seasons.
Junior Yamini Reddy has been the team’s singles leader the past two years, earning her first All-Summit League honor last season spring after finishing 22-7.
Alongside Reddy will be sophomore Milica Pavlovic. As a first-year, Pavlovic consistently filled in the Coyotes number one singles and doubles Pavlovic said it was tough for her transitioning to the number one slot as a first-year, but because she and her teammates have put in a lot of work, she expects everyone to fill in well this year.
“We all worked a lot over the summer, and we all are going to be able to handle the positions that we are playing better than last year,” she said.
Coach Gilreath knows exactly what the team needs to focus most on heading into the year – doubles. According to Gilreath, the team has already shown a lot of growth in chemistry, and now they expect better results in duals from improving doubles.
“Doubles is key for us. We have a good, strong singles mix, and we are deep. But doubles is very important when it comes to dual meet season,” Gilreath said. “We’ll do some mixing and matching as we go. Last year, you could see that as the doubles went, the singles went.”
Pavlovic and the rest of the team agree with their coach.
“We have a much better team. We must work on our doubles, to get that point when duals come. Last year, the doubles points decided a lot,” she said.
Aside from doubles, Gilreath also cited a few other goals he hopes the team will work heavily on.
“One big thing for us is the academics and making sure the academic integrity is there,” Gilreath said. “On the court, what I want us to do is to be competitive in every meet. If we do that, we’re going to be in pretty good shape by the end of the season.”