Tennis takes on Mizzou Tigers

Bradley Piros , Sports Editor

MACOMB, Ill. – The Western Illinois University women’s tennis team was supposed to kick off their spring season this Saturday against the University of Missouri Tigers, but it has been postponed due to incoming inclimate weather. A date and time for reschedule has not been released yet.

The Leathernecks are coming off one of their best fall seasons in recent memory as they made the Summit League tournament for the first time in three years.

Western only has three players returning from last year’s team: junior Laura Ballesteros and sophomore sisters Ana and Mary Bjelica, daughters of head coach Mirko Bjelica. These three are the backbone of the team, boasting a 7-3 conference record and a 31-11 overall. These three have been dominant in singles matches as well as doubles where all three of them are pretty much interchangeable.

The remaining five players joined the team in the fall and really rounded out the team. Anouk Maajong, Natalie Malone, Mia Melnizki, Camryn Rossa and Megan Tagaloa. These five all earned their first collegiate victory back in the fall season and are ready for more.

The Tigers, on the other hand, are in a little better shape. They have six players returning with three incoming freshman. They finished 13-16 last fall and fell out in the first round of the SEC (Southeastern Conference) tournament.

Mizzou plays in a much more competitive conference, having to play the likes of Florida, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Their final four meets are by far their toughest in Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn and Alabama. So, last season’s 13-16 record isn’t bad at all for them.

The Tigers have a total of eight players, half of them being recruited from other countries. Of these recruits is

freshman Lisa Fukutoku from Tokyo, Japan. She went 6-1 in singles action in the fall and 1-0 against ranked opponents. She was able to take down No. 46 Lauryn John-Baptist from Arizona State. These stats rank her at No. 60 in the latest Oracle ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) singles rankings.

Mizzou also has freshman Vivien Abraham from Budapest, Hungary. She is a U18 Hungarian national champion in doubles and has been ranked among the top-10 Hungarian juniors for several years now as well.

The point being, Mizzou is going to be a great and tough opponent for Western to kick off the spring season against. At the moment of typing this, the meet has still been postponed and is unsure if it will be made up.

If these matches aren’t made up, the Leathernecks will kick off their season next weekend with a double-header against the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Cougars and the University of Green Bay.

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