Redhawks return top two singles players

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Kristal twins helped lead Southeast to the OVC tourney for the first time in four years.

Southeast Missouri State women's tennis coach Mark Elliott considered his first season a success.

Elliott is looking for even better things during his second season, which kicks off Saturday with a match at the University of Missouri.

"I think we're going to be better than we were last year," Elliott said.

The Redhawks went 11-14 and finished sixth in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 5-5 record in 2007 to earn the program's first OVC tournament berth in four years.

But the latter accomplishment looks even better considering that the last time Southeast qualified, all but one OVC team got in. These days, only six of the league's 11 squads make the tournament.

"I thought last year did go pretty well," Elliott said. "Our goal was to make the conference tournament, and we accomplished that."

Elliott said this year's primary goal is "to get there again and hopefully get a couple of spots higher."

The Redhawks return four members of their six-player lineup from last season, led by senior twins Bryce and Drew Kristal from California, who held down the top two singles spots.

Bryce Kristal earned second-team all-OVC honors after compiling a 17-7 record, including an 8-2 mark in conference matches. She was Southeast's first all-league pick since 1996, and is ranked in a tie for fifth in this year's OVC preseason poll.

"Bryce had a very good year. In my opinion, she should have been first-team all-OVC," Elliott said.

Drew Kristal went 13-11 (5-5 OVC) at No. 2 singles, and teamed with her sister to go 15-9 at No. 1 doubles.

"Their senior years, the twins are working real hard to make sure they go out with a good season," Elliott said.

Also returning are junior Julia Masotti from Brazil and sophomore Elise Nattier from Flora, Ill.

Masotti (11-12, 5-5 OVC at No. 4 singles), has improved enough that Elliott said she will start the season at No. 2, behind Bryce Kristal and ahead of Drew Kristal, although more challenge matches will be held before the OVC schedule gets started.

Nattier, 12-12, 7-3, at No. 5 singles last year, figures to hold down the same position.

Elliott expects solid contributions from his two newcomers.

Alyce Kelly, a sophomore from Australia, is penciled in at No. 4, while freshman Taylor Orahood from Colorado will open at No. 6.

"They'll help us," Elliott said. "We're definitely deeper than we were last year."

The first several matches of the season will be played indoors.

Southeast opens its OVC schedule March 1 at Austin Peay, with the Redhawks hosting league rival Murray State on March 6 in their first home contest.

Elliott said the Redhawks should be more prepared for the start of the season because they have been able to practice indoors on the new courts at the Class Act Family Fitness Center in Jackson.

The Redhawks had to travel to practice indoors, which limited their court time last year.

"We've been able to practice five days a week. It's been really helpful," Elliott said. "We should be a little more ready to play this year."

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