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    March 4, 2004

    By Dustin Thompson

    Carbondale, Ill. - It's that time of year again when the women's tennis team takes its annual trip south to the sunshine state of Florida.

    After a three week break the women's tennis team hopes to show no signs of rust as they head to Orlando, Fla., for a week-long, three match road trip, where they will play Rollins College (March 7), Youngstown State (March 9) and Syracuse (March 11).

    The Salukis, who hold a record of 3-2 going into this weekend, hope to continue a three-match win streak.

    "I'm like any coach. I don't like losing; I like to win," head coach Judy Auld said. "But, I want to lose or win with the best team. The most frustrating thing is to lose a match when you know you're a better team, but you lose it because you don't have your best players out there or they're playing at 75 percent."

    SIU will look to seniors Alejandra Blanco, Tana Trapani and Jessica Knitter to lead them to victory as the team travels south. Blanco, who has notched a 4-1 record this fall, will once again hold down the Dawgs No. 1 singles spot, while Knitter will play at the No. 3 spot.

    Trapani (4-1), who has been a bright spot for the Salukis this season, will compete at the team's No. 4 spot. The feisty Murphysboro, Ill. native has won 13 of her last 14 matches, pushing her all-time record to 48-5 after what could have been a career-ending hip injury as a freshman. Trapani sat out for nearly two full years before returning last fall.

    "The whole team respects her tremendously because of her work ethic and her commitment to the team," Auld said. "But they all understand that she could be out tomorrow. She's an excellent role model, even without trying. She is willing to do things for the success of the team. She's played six straight matches so someone else could sit out, showing others that they may have to do the same. She creates a very positive atmosphere of commitment to the SIU and the team."

    Also expecting to be a contributor is sophomore Zuzana Palovic who has posted a solid 4-1 mark at the No. 6 spot.

    With three more victories, Auld will reach the 400-win mark - all of which came at SIU during the past 30 years. Auld, with 397 career coaching wins, is the second-winningest women's coach at SIU behind former softball coach Kay Brectelsbauer.

    But ... the Salukis may have one problem. History isn't on their side in Florida.

    Last season, the women's tennis team lost all three matches played down south, including a 6-1 loss to Syracuse. That fact doesn't bother Auld one bit.

    "I don't look at this trip like that. I just want to get the players outside and hitting the tennis ball," Auld said. "I knew when I scheduled these teams that they'd be good. Our best shot at winning a match this weekend may be against Youngstown State, but I'm not going to overlook them either."

    In doubles play the Salukis will count on the dynamic duo of Blanco and Trapani (3-2) to get the job done at the No. 1 spot, while the Dawgs look to sophomore Maria Blanco and Knitter to contribute at the No. 2 spot.

    The Salukis will play Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., while matching up with YSU and Syracuse in Orlando.

    All results for the upcoming week of matches in Florida, along with all stats and schedules can be found at www.SIUSalukis.com



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