SIU heads to Des Moines, Iowa to hunt for their first MVC Individuals title since the 2009 season.
Jan. 17, 2013
By Robin Thuringer
CARBONDALE, Ill.-- The Southern Illinois University men’s tennis team is set to open its spring campaign this weekend at the Missouri Valley Conference Individual Tournament hosted by Drake University.
The three-day tournament will run from Friday, Jan. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 20 with participating schools being Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State. Action gets underway with singles play on Friday at 8:30 a.m. and continues at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
The Salukis return seven players from the 2011-2012 season, including seniors Brandon Florez, Badr Cherradi and Orhan Spahic. The trio combined for 28 match wins last season. Head coach Dann Nelson looks for continued success from the seniors.
“These guys have been through the battle of college tennis and really understand the game,” Nelson said. “I am expecting great senior leadership and for them to be the rock of the team.”
Behind the seniors are a solid group of players including redshirt sophomore Jorge Cavero, who will be returning to the court after sustaining a season-ending injury last fall. The 2011 Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year will add depth to the top of the Saluki line-up.
SIU adds one newcomer to the roster this season, Jonny Rigby, a freshman from Lancashire, England.
In its Jan. 3 national and regional rankings, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) ranked one MVC team and five Valley players in their rankings. Drake enters the season ranked 45th nationally. The Bulldogs also boast four individuals who hold singles national rankings.
Host DU returns to conference action coming off its fifth regular season MVC title in the last six seasons and their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
Creighton also returns one nationally ranked singles player. Regionally, three MVC teams earned a doubles ranking. Drake, Wichita State and Southern Illinois all placed within the top-ten. The Saluki doubles team of Badr Cherradi and Jonny Rigby earned a No. 8 ITA regional ranking after a successful fall season.
Southern Illinois will hunt for their first title since the 2009 season when they won two singles championships. Last season at the tournament, the Salukis went 7-22 in both singles and doubles, but their performance wasn't without highlights as junior Badr Cherradi defeated the 66th-ranked player in the nation.
“We start with a difficult schedule to really prepare ourselves for Valley play,” said Nelson. “This season we are really going to need to improve every match to be competitive in the MVC. There are some great teams in this conference.”