Southeast Missouri State tennis team opens season this weekend

Friday, February 10, 2012

Southeast Missouri State women's tennis coach Mark Elliott has high hopes for his sixth team with two of the Ohio Valley Conference's top players returning and three talented newcomers joining the mix.

"We're excited," said Elliott, whose squad plays its first match Saturday at Arkansas State. "I think we've got a chance to be one of the best teams we've had here."

Elliott said the Redhawks' goal is to earn one of the six spots in the 10-team OVC's postseason tournament, something they haven't accomplished since his initial campaign at Southeast in 2007.

"That's the big thing. We really want to make the tournament," said Elliott, whose club went 2-14 overall and an eighth-place 1-7 in the OVC last year despite an impressive one-two punch at the top of the lineup. "I think we've got a good chance."

Sophomore Elizabeth Nyenwe is the reigning OVC freshman of the year, the first Southeast women's tennis player to win the award. The native of London also made the all-conference first team. She went 7-1 in OVC matches at No. 2 singles and her overall singles record was 9-7.

Junior Nikole Novikova joined Nyenwe on the all-conference first unit in 2011, marking the first time since 1996 that Southeast had two all-OVC performers in one season.

Novikova, from Bellevue, Wash., went 8-8 overall and 3-5 in OVC play at No. 1 singles. She was voted second-team all-OVC as a freshman.

Nyenwe and Novikova combined for 17 of Southeast's 27 singles wins in 2011. They are ranked fourth and 10th, respectively, on the OVC's preseason top 10 list.

"They both had very good seasons. They worked really hard, and it was great to see them recognized," Elliott said.

Junior Laura Garcia from Bogota, Colombia, and sophomore Lauren Schaper from St. Louis also are returning. They primarily held down the fourth and fifth singles positions a year ago.

Strengthening the lineup will be transfers Jess Courtnell and Heather Robinson and freshman Melissa Martin, all natives of England.

Courtnell, a sophomore, comes to Southeast from South Alabama. Robinson, a junior, transferred from Campbell University.

"I'm excited about the three new players," Elliott said. "They should really help us improve as a team."

Elliott said Courtnell, Martin and Robinson will be at the third through fifth singles positions behind No. 1 Novikova and No. 2 Nyenwe, with Garcia at No. 6.

The Redhawks home opener is set for March 6 against SIU Carbondale.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: