The USD tennis team will play in their first ever Summit League tournament April 26-27 in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The Coyotes will play against Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne. USD qualified for the conference championship after posting a 4-3 conference record. Overall, the tennis team went 16-10 for the season.
“I’m really happy and proud to be part of the USD tennis team,” sophomore Nina Barudzic said.
In preparation for the Summit League tournament, Barudzic said she has been visiting the trainer’s room to make sure that she stays in shape.
“I try to relax as much as possible,” Barudzic said.
Barudzic said the women’s tennis team has been helped on and off the court by their coach, Malcolm Gilreath. Gilreath is in his ninth season as coach of USD’s tennis team and has been with the team through its transition into Division I athletics.
“He always has good advice for us on the court and off the court,” first-year Milicia Pavlovic said. “So he helps a lot, all the time.”
The women’s tennis team went on multiple winning steaks en route to the Summit League championship tournament. USD will enter Fort Wayne having won three of their last tennis meets.
USD started out the spring season undefeated, managing to win all of their matches before falling in their third meet against the University of Texas-El Paso, 4-3. That loss was the beginning of a three-meet skid for the Coyotes.
Despite the streak, USD was able to regain a winning record. After a 5-7 start, the Coyotes went on a five meet winning streak, and they haven’t fallen below .500 since.
USD was picked to finish third in the conference by preseason polls. Despite being in fourth place, the team still reached Gilreath’s hopes of qualifying for its first tournament.
“It’s amazing to be part of that tournament,” Barudzic said. “Just because we made it as fourth doesn’t mean we cannot win. We’re going to give our best as always…try to beat IPFW, and move to the next round.”
IPFW will be the first seed in the Summit League tournament. The Mastodons (20-7) managed to remain undefeated in their seven conference tennis meets. IPFW was picked second in conference play.
USD lost in their meeting with IPFW. They were swept in Oakland, Mich. on March 29.
“We didn’t play very well against them,” Pavlovic said. “I hope we can do better this time.”
Pavlovic, who was named conference player of the week last month, expressed the importance of doubles points for the tennis team as they face IPFW.
“If we lose the double points,” Pavlovic said, “We’re going to need to work a lot to beat them.”
Rival South Dakota State will also be in the tournament. SDSU (15-9) finished well above their projected placing of sixth. The Jackrabbits are 5-2 in the Summit, one meet victory ahead of the Coyotes.
Their opponent will be Kansas City, who was favored to win the conference championship in the preseason polls. The Kangaroos (10-13) have only one loss in conference play (6-1).
Barudzic said if USD won the Summit League championship, the feeling of the victory would be “huge.”
“That would be unbelievable to be honest,” Barudzic said.
Pavlovic admitted she hadn’t even thought about the possibility of USD winning the Summit League title in its very first tournament appearance.
“I couldn’t describe the feeling (of winning),” Pavlovic said.