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Redhawks Tennis Begins Quest to Defend OVC Championship
The Southeast Missouri State tennis team starts their defense of their 2022 OVC Championship this weekend. The team, led by head coach Mary Beth Gunn, has high expectations for this year coming off their championship run and appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Six of the seven members are returning from last year, with the only exception being freshman Cosima Trinity Calinescu.
The team is a decorated one after last year’s successful season. Two players, junior Daniela Hlacikova and graduate student Romana Tarajova, were named to the 2022 All-OVC First Team. Graduate student Teona Velkoska and Hlacikova were also named to the 2022 All-OVC Doubles Team. Despite being named to her second All-OVC First Team, Hlacikova aims for more this year.
“I hope to win as many matches as I can, in singles and doubles. I didn’t win as many matches in the finals so I hope to not leave unfinished like last year,” she said.
Many of the players have proven themselves since practices began. The maturity of the team goes to show just how tough of a group they will be once they step on the court. Calinescu received high remarks from Gunn because of her ability to work to improve her game.
“She’s been doing a great job. Great work ethic, really wants to improve her game and raise her level. So I’m excited to see what she can do at the first tournament,” Gunn said.
The expectations are high for the team. Players and Gunn know the work it will take to win another championship. They also know what the feeling of winning a championship feels like, and it has been driving them to get better every day.
“We have so many returners, and they know what a special thing it is to win a championship and I know they want to be back competing for that again,” Gunn said.
The team has also grown together as a unit. They know they have what it takes to go back to the tournament and walk away with another title. Their improvement has shown since they started practicing together.
“We have really improved since we started practicing,” senior Ksenia Shikanova said. “Everyone is showing good results and the level is higher. We are doing pretty good on the court right now.”
The new season will come with its own challenges. The Redhawks will be tasked with facing new schools with new opponents they have not had the chance of seeing before. However, they are confident in their ability to be successful.
“It’s gonna be hard because we have new schools and we don’t know the opponents, but I think we can make it back to the tournament with a real chance of winning,” Hlacikova said.
The first tournament will prove to be a challenge for the Redhawks as they find their footing in a young season. They have worked on doing things right as a team as well as individually heading into their first tournament.
“When we go into tournaments, the focus is on the process, and you have to focus on doing the right things to get what you want,” Gunn said. “There’s been some specific things we work on with the return and being more aggressive. I don’t mind if they miss, I just want to see them put in play some of these things that we’ve worked on these first couple weeks of practice.”
The Redhawks will travel to Central Arkansas to begin their championship defense on Friday, Sept. 16.