Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
Murray State’s tennis team needed a plethora of situations to work in their favor if they hoped to see their postseason aspirations materialize.
In order to qualify for the OVC tournament, the Racers needed to secure a win against Austin Peay on Wednesday—they did. They needed Southeast Missouri State to lose to Eastern Illinois—check. They also needed Eastern Kentucky to beat Austin Peay—done.
Lastly, the Racers needed to defeat an Eastern Kentucky team that sits at third in the OVC on Saturday—they did, claiming a 4-3 win to extend their season another week.
On the Racers’ final game of their regular season and their senior day, the duo of Amina Hadzic, sophomore from Esbjerg, Denmark, and Anja Loncarevic, freshman from Guilherand-Granges, France, won their doubles match against Colonel junior Laura Argente Escamilla and junior Raquel Montalvo Perez 7-6.
The team of senior Alina Schibol, from Hamburg, Germany, and Claire Chang, freshman from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, won their match 6-2 against EKU freshman Kristina Lagoda and sophomore Viktorija Demcenkova to win the doubles point for the Racers.
Schibol, who was honored prior to the match as the lone senior on the team, also won her singles match against sophomore Margaux Lacroix 7-5, 6-0. Head Coach Jorge Caetano said Schibol’s senior leadership is critical to the team’s success.
“[Alina] has been leading this young team that we have so well,” Caetano said. “She’s a huge, important part of our team, and the girls play for her.”
Sara Loncarevic, freshman from Guilherand-Granges, France, defeated EKU junior Sagung Putri Dwinta 6-4, 6-3 in her singles match. Sara Bjork, freshman from Malmo, Sweden, won in three sets against EKU senior Marina Marti Hernanz by scores of 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The Racers’ win pushed them to 7-11 overall on the year and 4-5 in the conference. Caetano said although it was a tough road to qualifying for the tournament, his team kept believing.
“This whole week we’ve been telling ourselves we still can do it, we’re still winning,” Caetano said. “We had to hope for a couple results to go our way.”
Caetano said that as his team saw the stars beginning to align, it helped them come into their match on Saturday with a vengeance.
“The girls were very fired up for today,” Caetano said. “They were ready to go for senior day for Alina [Schibol].”
Murray State’s win locked up the final spot in the OVC tournament. The Racers will face a familiar opponent in EKU in their first round matchup. Murray State is the No. 6 seed in the tournament, going up against the No. 3 seeded Colonel team.
The defending champions, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, will hold the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament, followed by UT Martin at the No. 2 seed. The No. 4 seed belongs to EIU, followed by SEMO at the No. 5 seed.
Caetano said that matching up with EKU in the first round will play to their advantage.
“Now they’ve played everyone once, and they know we can beat anyone in the tournament,” Caetano said. “We got the last spot, but the thing is we play EKU again, so we play the team we just beat. I think it’s going to give us even more confidence going into the tournament; we have to go one match at a time.”
The Racers will kick off their first match of the OVC tournament at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 21 against EKU at the Centennial Sportsplex Tennis Center in Nashville, Tennessee.