The conference season did not begin the way that the APSU women’s tennis team had hoped.
After dropping their first two matches, the reigning OVC champions were on the cusp of missing the tournament altogether; however, the Govs rallied to pick up five straight wins, including a 6-1 victory over their biggest rival on Friday, April 16.
Anyone who follows the APSU and Mu**ay State rivalry knows how just how much a victory over the other means across any sport. It only adds to the excitement of the age-old rivalry when a top playoff position is up for grabs in a season-finale match.
“I don’t care who wins against Mu**ay, as long as it’s not Mu**ay,” APSU head coach Ross Brown said prior to Friday’s match against the Racers.
The Governors and Racers both entered their final contest of the regular season sporting a 4-2 conference record which left them second and third in the conference standings, respectively.
The winner of the match would garner the second seed heading into next weekend’s OVC Tournament in Evansville, Ind., while the other would be the third or fourth heading into the postseason.
APSU never left anything in doubt after quickly picking up the doubles point and cruising to five of six points in singles.
The No. 2 doubles pairing of Jana Leder and Aleks Topalovic picked up their seventh win behind a 6-1 victory. Fabienne Schmidt and Danielle Morris came out on top 6-2 in their match, good for their 11th of the season.
In singles, Morris, coming off her first OVC Player of the Week award, picked up APSU’s second point after defeating her opponent in straight sets.
A trio of APSU points later and with the result already decided, Jana Leder rallied to defeat MSU’s Sarah Bureau in three sets for the day’s last point. The win marked her 10th-straight on the season and a team-high 11th overall.
Coach Brown has emphasized the importance of picking up the double’s point throughout the season. In their first two conference losses, the team failed to get on the board first, but have since picked up the match’s inaugural point four times during their five-game winning streak.
“The reality in college tennis is that there’s six points in singles and to win four out of the six is difficult,” Brown said. “To win three out of the six is very doable. That extra point is like getting over the mountain. It creates momentum going into singles, it’s terribly important.”
APSU’s top-three singles positions of Schmidt, Morris and Leder have been solid throughout the season. Each have eight or more wins in their respective positions with a combined record of 27-11, led by Leder’s 11-2 mark.
“They’re all good players and it comes down to believing in yourself and working through situations,” Brown said of his top-three. “You look at Jana for instance and the number of matches she has won in three sets, there is no give there. While Fabi didn’t play [the best] tennis today, I am confident that she is going to come back and play better tennis. She has struggled a little as of late here, but I believe in her and I think she can work through this here.
“With tennis, I always believe the old saying of ‘Fortune favors the brave’ and if you get passive against somebody, then you’re not there. You can’t be overly aggressive either. All of our girls have found a way to be brave when it counted.”
With the momentum of five-consecutive wins behind them, the Govs will look to rout the Racers once again in an even more meaningful setting.
APSU and Mu**ay State will reacquaint in the semifinals of the OVC Women’s Tennis Tournament at the Wesselman Tennis Center in Evansville, Ind. at 2 p.m. on April 24. The winner between the two will play against the winner of Southeast Missouri and Jacksonville State for the OVC title a day later at 2 p.m.