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Redhawks out but not down after tiebreaker
Southeast didn't make the OVC tournament field but had its best season since 1997.
The Southeast Missouri State women's tennis team missed out on making the Ohio Valley Conference tournament by the slimmest of margins.
But third-year coach Jay Pacelli doesn't want that to detract from the Redhawks' breakthrough season.
Southeast finished with its first winning record since 1997, as the Redhawks wound up 12-11 overall. They ended the year on a four-match winning streak.
"We came a long way this year," said Pacelli, who has improved the Redhawks from one win to six wins to 12 wins during his three seasons.
Southeast finished 4-6 in OVC play, which left the Redhawks in a three-way tie for sixth place, along with Jacksonville State and Morehead State.
The top six finishers in the 11-team conference qualify for the league tournament that begins Friday in Nashville, Tenn.
Southeast beat Jacksonville State and lost to Morehead State, while Jacksonville State beat Morehead State, so those head-to-head results could not be used to break the tie.
Pacelli said he and the other two coaches involved with the tie were under the impression that a vote among the OVC's remaining coaches would be used to determine the sixth conference tournament representative, which has been the case in past years when true head-to-head results failed to decide things.
Instead, the tie was broken based on match points won in the competition between the three squads. Jacksonville State beat Morehead State 5-2, while Southeast's win over Jacksonville State and Morehead State's victory over Southeast were both 4-3.
Thus, Jacksonville State earned the tournament's sixth spot based on eight match points, compared to seven for Southeast and six for Morehead State.
"It probably wasn't real crystal clear in the manual, and the OVC people told me they will try to make it more clear for the future," Pacelli said. "We made a real good run at getting into the tournament, which was one of our goals, but it just didn't happen."
Still, Pacelli said, "I am so, so proud of my women. We accomplished a lot. It doesn't take away from our season at all.
"With no seniors, to have a winning season for this program ... I am very, very proud of each individual member of this team. I think this team played with a lot of great passion and great enthusiasm."
Freshman Julia Masotti, playing No. 3 singles, had the Redhawks' best record at 18-5, including 8-2 in OVC competition.
Sophomore twin sisters Bryce and Drew Kristal, the Redhawks' top two singles players, went 17-6 at No. 1 doubles, including 8-2 in the OVC.
Bryce Kristal was 12-11 at No. 1 singles, junior Luz Garcia was 9-7 at No. 4 singles, and junior Kimmy Anderson from Jackson High School posted a 7-7 mark at No. 6 singles.
"Any time you're above .500 at first singles, that's a very respectable year," Pacelli said. "To have four singles players .500 or above, that's pretty good."
With everybody eligible to return next season, and with more solid recruiting, Pacelli said he expects the program to continue making strides.
"Any team can always improve from within, and with a possible addition here or there, we should be better next year," he said. "We're not far away from not only going to the tournament, which I fully expect to do next year, but competing for the championship. We're definitely in it for that."
Masotti became the first Redhawks player to receive an OVC player of the week award this season when she was honored Wednesday.
Masotti went 2-0 last week while also winning a doubles match. She ended the year with a seven-match winning streak in singles.