OMAHA, NEB. – Having just four players available for competition has become a way of life for the Sycamore women’s tennis team during the past month and, for the most part, Indiana State has been able to survive the pressure of starting a match down 2-0.
The Sycamores season came to an abrupt end Friday, however, as Northern Iowa posted a 4-3 victory in the opening round of the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Team Championship.
After winning eight of their last 10 matches without freshman Aleksandra Dzakula, who suffered a season ending ankle injury in March, the Sycamores could not rally to pull out another win as they sought to defend the title they won a year ago.
Indiana State did come back after dropping the doubles point and starting the singles down 3-0 with Sarah Meghoufel, Anna Morgina and Sofya Lifanova each winning their singles matches to even the team match at 3-all.
That meant the team outcome would depend on the result of the No. 4 singles match. Indiana State freshman Elmine Botes, who had been sick earlier this week, won the first set over Northern Iowa’s Jessica Kunzelmann 7-5 but dropped the second set 6-3. In the third set, Kunzelmann posted a 6-1 victory over Botes which gave the team win to the Panthers.
“She’s young and she is learning,” Malik Tabet, Indiana State Director of Tennis said. “She was able to handle the pressure at Illinois State where she won the match for us but today, she just could not handle the pressure. But that comes with experience and she will be better next year.”
Meghoufel gave Indiana State their first point of the day with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Phoebe Walker at No. 1 singles. Anna Morgina followed with a 6-2, 6-4 win over UNI’s Laia Gonzalez at No. 2 singles while Sofya Lifanova tied the team score with a 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Sampada Kincaid at No. 3 singles.
In doubles, Lifanova and Morgina finished their season by winning their eighth straight match together, topping Gonzalez and Walker 8-3 at No. 2 doubles.
Northern Iowa took the doubles point when Kincade and Diana Mendez handed ISU’s Meghoufel and Botes their fourth straight loss 8-5.
Indiana State ends the 2008-2009 season with an 8-12 record overall.