After going 2-1 in Wisconsin over the weekend, the University of South Dakota women’s tennis team (8-8) will head to Fort Wayne, Ind., April 4-5 to start conference play.
The women beat Wisconsin-Green Bay 5-2 March 28 and Wisconsin-Stevens Point 9-0 March 29 before losing 4-3 to Wisconsin-Milwaukee March 30.
“We did really well as a team, winning two of the three matches,” junior Yamini Reddy said. “They were definitely good wins. We’re that much closer to being prepared for the next month of Summit League play.”
Head coach Malcolm Gilreath said the loss to Milwaukee was a competitive match.
“We fought well against them,” Gilreath said. “That’s what we wanted going into the conference season.”
As the team heads into the conference portion of the season, senior Michelle Elkin said the team will take the final tune-up in Wisconsin and use it to get into a more competitive mindset for the matches against Denver and South Dakota State this weekend.
“I expect both teams to be really difficult and competitive,” Elkin said. “It’ll be a good fight, and all of our hard work from the first part of the season will show.”
Reddy said the team will spend the week working on its doubles play to make sure it’ll be competitive against Denver and SDSU.
“We’re good but that click needs to be there,” Reddy said. “We’re a singles strong team, but the doubles point makes it crucial to be good at doubles.”
The team has never played Denver, but the nationally-ranked team is expected to be tough competition, Reddy said.
“It’s going to be one of the toughest teams we’ll see all season,” she said. “The level of play is going to be different for us.”
As for SDSU, the Jackrabbits were ranked third in the pre-season coaches’ poll, while USD was ranked fourth.
“We expect that to be a very strong match,” Gilreath said. “Of course the rivalry is there, so we’re looking forward to that.”
The rivalry stands at 1-1 with SDSU, with USD winning in 2011 and SDSU winning in 2012, so this match will be a big one for both teams, Elkin said.
Reddy said the team is looking forward to playing SDSU.
“SDSU has improved a lot since my freshman year,” she said. “It’s a steady rivalry so it’ll be interesting to see how we match up.”
While the women have seen a variety of Division I and II teams in the first half of the season, the focus now is on beating their Summit League foes for a bid to the NCAA tournament, Gilreath said.
“These matches are a little more personal,” Gilreath said. “When you play other teams, standings aren’t involved.”
Reddy said USD will see both Denver and SDSU again in the Summit League tournament, so these matches are important to helping the women get a feel for how each team plays.
While all matches are important to helping the players improve, now is the time to win, Elkin said.
“This has to do with our seeding for the Summit League tournament,” she said. “There are no easy matches and every point counts.”
The Coyotes will play Denver April 4 and SDSU April 5 in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Photo: First-year Ana Vujosevic rushes toward the net to return a volley during tennis practice March 20 outside of the DakotaDome. (Malachi Petersen/The Volante)