'Hawks open season today at Louisville

Friday, February 10, 2006

Jay Pacelli enters his third season as the Southeast Missouri State women's tennis coach intent on continuing the Redhawks' resurgence.

After taking over a Southeast program that ranked among the Ohio Valley Conference's worst for much of the previous decade, Pacelli's first team went 1-21.

But the Redhawks improved to 6-13 last season for their best record since 1997, and they also won two OVC matches after capturing just one the year before.

"I was pleased last year, but as a coach you're greedy, you want more. I think the players want more," Pacelli said. "We were happy about taking a step forward, but we're not satisfied.

"We took a step up last season, and I think we're ready to take a major step up the ladder in the OVC this year. I expect this team to be more successful than last year, but we have to prove it on the court."

The Redhawks have been battling injury problems as they prepare for today's opening match at Louisville. Southeast's first home match will be March 10 against Arkansas State.

"We've got a few health issues, but we're hoping to get better in the next couple of weeks," said Pacelli, whose squad will play all six of its February matches indoors.

The Redhawks return four players from last season, led by sophomore twins Bryce and Drew Kristal. They filled Southeast's top two spots in 2005 and will do the same this year. Bryce had the Redhawks' best record a year ago, going 10-9 in singles, including 5-3 in the OVC.

"Bryce had a very good year, especially for a freshman and playing at No. 1," Pacelli said. "Drew also did well for a freshman."

Also back is junior Kimmy Anderson from Jackson High School. Sophomore Miranda Petrea returns but is out for the season after having ankle surgery.

Others on the team

Rounding out the squad are four newcomers: Luz Garcia, a junior transfer from Troy University by way of Colombia; freshman Juliana Negosek from Brazil; freshman Julia Masotti from Brazil; and freshman walk-on Morgan Kemp from Fredericktown High School.

Garcia has only this week returned to the practice courts after being bothered by a shoulder problem that was originally feared to be serious but has since gotten much better. She won't play Friday or in the first several matches, but Pacelli hopes to have her back in a couple weeks.

Masotti will play the No. 3 position to start the season, followed by Negosek, Anderson and Kemp. Garcia will certainly fill one of the top five spots once she returns.

"Luz, Juliana and Julia will all really help us, Kimmy has improved a lot from last year, and Morgan has some good skills," Pacelli said. "I feel like we have really strengthened our lineup."

Pacelli said Southeast's goal is to qualify for the OVC tournament for the first time in several years. The Redhawks barely missed out in 2005, finishing ninth among 11 squads. Eight teams qualified last year.

Accomplishing that will be even more difficult this season, since only the top six finishers now qualify.

"It's a challenge, but I think we're up to the challenge," Pacelli said. "It will be tough, but I think we can do it. I'm excited, and I believe in this team."

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