Retooled Redhawks ready to hit tennis courts

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Southeast's tennis program experienced a lot of bad luck last season

There is no place to go but up for the Southeast Missouri State women's tennis team.

The 2009 Redhawks endured a tough season, winning just one match, but fourth-year coach Mark Elliott is confident that better times are ahead.

Southeast opens the 2010 campaign Friday at Saint Louis University. The Redhawks' first home match is their Ohio Valley Conference opener against Murray State on March 11.

"I think things are looking pretty good," Elliott said. "We're appreciably better."

The Redhawks competed with just two healthy scholarship players last year. One key player missed the entire season with an injury and Elliott's top two recruits -- both Russians -- unexpectedly turned professional just before school started.

Several other anticipated recruits also fell through, so Elliott filled the majority of his roster with walk-ons found during open tryouts.

Southeast went 1-19 overall and 1-8 in the OVC. The Redhawks' lone win came against Tennessee State.

"It was a tough year," said Elliott, who led the Redhawks to the program's first OVC tournament berth in four years in his initial Southeast season in 2007.

Although Southeast is behind many of the OVC's programs when it comes to scholarship funding, Elliott has six players receiving at least some scholarship aid this season. That's the reason for his optimism.

"I think we've got a pretty strong lineup," Elliott said.

Southeast graduated its top player, Julia Masotti, who accounted for five of the squad's 10 singles victories last year.

Returning scholarship players are senior Elise Nattier, a four-year team member, and junior Alyce Kelly, who missed all of last season with a broken ankle.

Nattier and Kelly will be joined by scholarship players Ashton Hartley, a junior college transfer, along with freshmen Dianna Donoslovic, Laura Garcia and Nikole Novikova.

Rounding out the roster are returning sophomore walk-ons Valentina Emiliani and Sarah Pettigrew.

Elliott said Kelly will open the season at the top of the lineup, followed by Novikova, Donoslovic, Nattier, Hartley and Garcia.

Southeast's goal, said Elliott, is to make the OVC tournament. Six of the OVC's 10 squads qualify.

"That's what we're shooting for," Elliott said.

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