Tennis starts Southland Conference play at Southeastern

HAMMOND – With just six Southland Conference matches on the docket this season because of a smaller league, each one carries an increased weight.

Northwestern State starts league play on Saturday at Southeastern at 11 am, the first of two road matches to begin the conference slate.

NSU (7-4) is on a two-match winning streak after taking out Lamar, 5-2, and Alcorn State, 7-0, this past weekend.

SLU (1-10) has been shutout in six of their 10 losses, which includes a 4-0 loss to Lamar. Alcorn State also topped the Lions, 4-3.

“We’re super excited to start Southland Conference play, even though we’ll prepare for this one just like any other match,” said NSU coach Jonas Brobeck, whose Lady Demons continue their road trip next week at UNO. “We saw SLU in the fall and compete against them every year.

“It’s important to go back to the drawing board and focus on the things we’re good at. If we do that, we’ll be in a good position. It’d be great to win the first one on the road with only six league matches, so you want to start on a good note.”

NSU freshman Ayu Ishibashi earned her first Southland Conference Player of the Week honor by going 2-0 in both singles and doubles this past, dropping just four games total in the process.

The Chiba, Japan, native went 2-0 in singles play with a 6-0, 6-0 sweep of Lamar’s Alba Perez and a 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Alcorn State’s Stefny Grlj in the No. 4 position.

Ishibashi swept her doubles matches with partner Patrycja Polanska, topping Lamar’s tandem 6-2 and Alcorn State’s duo 6-1 in the No. 3 lock.

“Ayu played phenomenally against Lamar, and she’s such a coachable and smart tennis player,” Brobeck said. “She listens really well, competes hard and knew exactly what she needed to do against her Lamar opponent.

“She got on top, but it’s not just about starting well, she maintained her composure and continued to be disciplined and put pressure on her by playing the right way. I thought we played well as a team against Lamar, and the things we needed to clean up, we did that against Alcorn State.”

On the season, Ishibashi is 6-2 in singles play and 5-1 in her last six singles matches.

She is part of a freshman wave that is anchoring the top of NSU’s singles lineup.

Rozalie Dohnalova has played the top position all season with Tjasa Klevisar in the no. 2 hole. Dohnalova is 5-6 and Klevisar 5-4 this season.

Sophomores Mariella Minetti (7-2 at No. 3) and Viktorie Wojkicova (6-3, 5-3 at No. 5) have been mainstays in the lineup as well.

After recovering from a wrist injury that held her out of competition for nearly a year, fifth-year senior Patrycja Polanska is a combined 3-3 in the No. 5 and no. 6 single slots.

“I think everybody is coming along well, and even though we have three freshman in our top four slots, they are mature players,” Brobeck said. “We knew coming in they were great players (No. 9 ranked mid-major recruiting class), but they have experience in their home countries and internationally.

“We have a nice mix of young and veteran players, and it’s fun to see them grow.”

The Lions finally returned top player Putri Insani, who has competed in their last three matches after posting a 7-4 mark in the No. 1 spot this past season.

Insani is 2-1 since her return, logging two of SLU’s seven overall singles wins this season.

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