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Tennis heads off to Omaha for pivotal set of matches

The Coyote women’s tennis team heads to Omaha, Neb. April 11-13 to face four conference foes for the right to make it to the conference championships at the end of the month.

“Those four dual meets against South Dakota State, University Nebraska Omaha, IUPUI and Oakland will decide who plays in the tournament and the standings for the tournament,” head coach Malcolm Gilreath said.

This season has been promising for the Coyotes, who carried a five-game winning streak going into conference play, but lost two of three to open up Summit League play.

First-year Hafsa Laraibi said losing the first two matches put them in a position where they have to perform well to hope for a position in the conference championship.

“The best thing for us is to win the matches so we can be sure to qualify to the tournament without looking at the other teams’ results,” Laraibi said.

The Coyotes have dealt with many changes this season, changing doubles partners at the beginning of spring.

“We changed partners at the beginning of the spring, so we want to focus on our chemistry and get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Gilreath said. “If you can in doubles it takes a lot of pressure away from singles.”

The Coyotes stand in fifth place in Summit League standings. All four teams they face in Omaha are in contention for the fourth seed.

The Summit League Championships only take the top four teams, so the Coyotes have to have a stellar showing to make it to the championship in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“We’re in the hunt to make it. A lot depends on individual play,” Gilreath said. “Everyone is in the hunt, so each dual meet will be critical. We can’t overlook anyone, and no one can overlook us.”

The Coyotes have traveled all season without playing in Vermillion once this year, making the team strictly a road team.

“Playing on the road can be difficult at times, but the one positive is that it really allows the girls to bond,” Gilreath said.

With the team relying a lot on youth, they have had to learn quickly, and the singles have really done that for the team this year.

“I think our biggest strong point is the variety of our games,” Laraibi said. “We have six singles but each single player has a different way of playing and so it is easier for us to show up every time in different flights.”

After the Coyotes return from Omaha, they have one remaining game on the schedule, at home against the University of Sioux Falls April 16.