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Southeast made big strides in 6-13 year
Southeast Missouri State ended its women's tennis season seven matches below .500, but coach Jay Pacelli found it hard to be too disappointed.
Pacelli believes the Redhawks, who were rained out of Monday's final match against Tennessee-Martin -- it will not be rescheduled -- made solid strides in his second season after taking over a slumping program.
After going 1-21 overall and winning just one Ohio Valley Conference match last year, the Redhawks improved to 6-13 overall and 2-6 in OVC play. The six victories is their most since 1997.
"I think it's the old thing, when you look back on the season, I think we put together some of the building blocks for a successful program for the future," Pacelli said. "Getting the sixth win, I'm very happy about that.
"We had a number of goals and we achieved some of them. Having the most wins since 1997 was a fine accomplishment, especially since we had a difficult schedule. I would put this schedule higher than a lot of Southeast tennis teams played in the past."
One major goal Southeast did not reach was making the OVC tournament. Eight of the league's 11 teams qualify, but the Redhawks finished ninth to fall just short. A tough 5-2 loss Friday at Eastern Illinois prevented Southeast from replacing the Panthers in eighth place.
"Making the OVC Tournament was a big goal. Not making it kind of stings," Pacelli said. "The OVC is a very strong conference. We lost a tough match to Eastern Illinois. If we had beaten them, we'd have been the No. 8 seed."
Southeast fielded a young lineup this season, the lone senior being No. 3 player Daniela Garcia.
"We lose a terrific player and team leader in Daniela," Pacelli said.
Freshman twins Bryce and Drew Kristal filled the top two positions for the Redhawks and also formed their No. 1 doubles team.
Sophomore Ashley Hooper, sophomore Kim Anderson (Jackson High School) and freshman Kim Roberts held down the fourth through six positions. Freshman Miranda Petrea and Puja Paul completed the roster.
Bryce Kristal, a candidate for OVC freshman of the year, had Southeast's best record despite playing in the top position. She was 5-3 in conference play and 10-9 overall.
"She had a good season and hopefully she'll get some conference recognition," Pacelli said.
Anderson was 4-4 in OVC matches, while the Kristals went 4-4 in conference doubles play.
Pacelli said the key for continued development in the program is for the returning players to improve considerably, along with adding several talented new players.
"We have to improve from within. The returning players have to improve their games," Pacelli said. "And in tennis one or two players can make a big difference, all the difference in the world. We have to add a couple of strong players.
"I think we have a good core right now, and hopefully with a couple of additional players, we can make the next step, not only to go to the conference tournament, but competing for a top spot, and competing for the championship. That's what a coach should always strive for."
Added Pacelli: "Overall, even though we lost a few close matches, we are pretty close to where I thought we'd be right now. When you look back on the season, we have a lot to be proud of. And everybody is really positive about the future."