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Twins act closes for Redhawks tennis
The opportunity to keep playing together and to experience a different part of the country led Bryce and Drew Kristal to Cape Girardeau.
Four years later, the identical twin sisters from California have put the finishing touches on college careers that rank among the best in the history of Southeast Missouri State women's tennis.
And they say they regret nothing about their experiences halfway across the United States from where they grew up.
"We wanted to play somewhere together, and we wanted to get away," Drew said. "It's been great here."
Added Bryce: "It's a great community, the support you get is great. It's been a lot of fun."
The Kristals, seniors who have been at the top of the Redhawks' lineup since they were freshmen, played their final collegiate matches Sunday when Southeast hosted Eastern Illinois.
Although Bryce and Drew both suffered singles losses — at the Nos. 1 and 2 positions, respectively — they bounced back to prevail in doubles during the match played indoors at the Class Act Family Fitness Center in Jackson.
Bryce, who has been Southeast's No. 1 player the past four years, finished the season with a 13-7 singles record, including 7-3 in Ohio Valley Conference matches.
Last season Bryce went 17-7 to earn second-team all-OVC honors and become Southeast's first all-league pick since 1996.
With 52 career singles wins — she had a winning record in all four of her college seasons — Bryce ranks second on the school's all-time victory list.
Drew shuffled between the second and third singles spots this season, after playing at No. 2 her first three years.
Although Drew won just three singles matches this year, she went 13-11 last season and her 29 career singles victories place her among the program's top five.
among the program's top five.
"They have both had great careers here," Southeast coach Mark Elliott said of his only two seniors. "They will be hard to replace, not only what they do tennis-wise, but the leadership they bring."
Paired together at No. 1 doubles the past four seasons, the Kristals have gone 42-23 during the last three years, including 10-8 this season.
The Kristals have combined for the most doubles victories in program history — 50 — and last year's 17 wins set the single-season record.
"We have grown better as a [doubles] team," Bryce said, adding with a smile: "The first two years you might have seen us bicker a bit."
Bryce and Drew, from Pleasanton, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, were recruited to Southeast by former coach Jay Pacelli.
After Pacelli left following the Kristals' sophomore season, a familiar face took over the Southeast program.
As a junior tennis coach in northern California, Elliott began working with Bryce and Drew when they were 7. He also worked with their mother when she was in high school.
"It's pretty cool, having him work with us all these years, and our mom," Drew said. "After we heard coach Pacelli was leaving, we saw [Elliott] over the summer and told him about [the Southeast job]."
The Kristals have been roommates since they got to Southeast. They say they have a lot of the same interests and a lot of the same friends.
"But we also have a lot of different friends," Bryce pointed out.
Asked whether they consider themselves best friends, Drew laughed.
"We just talked about that. I said 'you're not my friend.' We probably wouldn't get along if we weren't related," Drew said.
Added Bryce with a grin: "We're not connected at the hip."
One notable thing they do have in common is classroom excellence.
Both are Southeast Scholar Athletes, Bryce carrying a 3.389 grade-point average in physical education and Drew holding a 3.270 GPA in business.
The Kristals plan to eventually return to California for their careers.
Bryce wants to be a teacher and tennis coach, while Drew plans to continue at Southeast to get her master's and eventually would like to also continue with sports from an administrative angle, "like working with a tennis club."
But no matter where they wind up, they said their experience at Southeast will always hold fond memories.
"It's been great," Drew said.
After going 11-14 last year and finishing sixth in the OVC at 5-5 to earn an OVC tournament berth, the Redhawks stumbled this season.
Southeast went 5-15 and 2-8 in OVC play as it failed to make the six-team league tournament.
Sunday's 4-2 loss to Eastern Illinois was the Redhawks' seventh consecutive OVC setback.
"We could not put a win together," Elliott said. "We had lots of chances. We let a lot of matches get away."
No. 3 Julia Masotti and No. 5 Alyce Kelly posted Southeast's singles victories Sunday.