July 18, 2012
By Tim McCaughan
CARBONDALE, IL - he Saluki women's tennis team is coming off of the best season in school history, posting a 17-6 overall record, and last week they added ITA All-Academic Team recognition for the third season in-a-row.
Now the question is, what can they do for an encore? At the moment, head coach Audra Nothwehr is celebrating the achievements of her team in the classroom.
"Being named an All-Academic team has become a standard for our program now, and we want this award every year," said Nothwehr. "We want to be balanced in the classroom, on the court, and to still have time for family and friends."
Most of the players are in Carbondale this summer, preparing to compete in ITA tournaments later this month. Several players have also helped Nothwehr with summer camps, volunteering their time to promote tennis in Southern Illinois.
The women's tennis team exceeded expectations last season, recording the highest winning percentage in school history (.739). Leading the way for the Salukis was junior Melanie Delsart, who came into last season ranked No. 10 in the ITA Central region and was ranked among players from Kansas State, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and women's tennis powerhouse Tulsa. Delsart finished the year 22-8 in singles, primarily at the No. 1 spot, while going 23-9 in doubles play.
It was not a one-person show last year, though. The Salukis used a balanced lineup that combined to win more than half its match-ups.
"There was a huge difference in how each player took ownership in the team," said Nothwehr.
The Salukis improved the most in doubles play, where they won nearly 70 percent (.696) of their matches compared to .443 the previous year.
SIU will add one freshman for the upcoming year -- Abigail Plecki will walk-on for the 2012-13 season. Plecki finished her senior year at Lockport Township High School with 67 career doubles wins primarily at the No. 1 slot, before switching to singles her senior year where she finished with 20 wins at the No. 1 spot.
"She is coming into a full team, and she has the tools to contribute in doubles right away, she just needs time on the court to adjust," said Nothwehr. "Abigail has a great attitude and tools and will only get better with experience."
With all of the current players returning to the team, the goal is to improve upon last season's record-breaking mark.
"Expectations are going to be higher next year," said Nothwehr. "We have an experienced team, and everyone in the conference is losing a lot of their top players. We should be a contender for the MVC Championship."