It may seem like the next two days are a mere formality for the Wichita State women’s tennis team to collect its fifth consecutive Missouri Valley Conference championship.
Bradley, the No. 8 seed, wasn’t any more of a nuisance than the drizzle that forced Friday’s first-round match indoors at Crestview Country Club, as the Shockers fulfilled their role as favorites in a 4-0 victory.
But a familiar foe awaits WSU in Saturday’s 10 a.m. semifinal at Crestview, and they suggest the margin between the Shockers and the rest of the Missouri Valley isn’t as wide as their perfect conference record might indicate.
“I think we’re uniquely qualified at Illinois State to make that assessment,” head coach Chris Hoover said after the Redbirds dispatched Evansville 4-0 in the first round. “We know exactly who Wichita State is because we’ve been on the receiving end of their last three tournament titles. We’ve been rolling in second with them for a number of years now.”
The matchup, which WSU won 5-2 two weeks ago, has the full attention of the Shockers. After all, they haven’t won four straight tournament titles because of entitlement, head coach Colin Foster points out.
“I’m sure Illinois State is going to come out playing free,” Foster said. “We’ve got all of the pressure being the No. 1 seed.”
That pressure, whether external or internal, never surfaced on Friday.
WSU set the tone with a dominant performance to earn the doubles point. The No. 3 doubles team of Satjaporn Mahajaroenkul and Montse Blasco Fernandez won 8-0, followed by an 8-1 victory by the No. 2 team of Lucia Kovalova and Julia Schiller.
If needed, Rebecca Pedrazzi and Carla Venticinque were up 7-0 in No. 1 play when the point was won.
The match had been decided before the No. 5 and No. 6 singles games could begin, as Pedrazzi, Schiller and Kovalova took the top 3 matches.
“We’ve been winning the regular season for five years now, so we feel like we should win,” Fernandez said. “But at the same time, we feel respectful to our opponents. We put the pressure on ourselves.”
Illinois State is sure to flip that pressure to external on Saturday, as Hoover is predicting the doubles point will be “without a doubt” the turning point of the match.
“It’s an opportunity to apply the pressure immediately,” Hoover said. “We want to force them to play catch up.”
Before talks of playing for a fifth straight championship can commence, Foster wants his players to embrace, not avoid, the target on them this weekend.
“That’s something to be proud of,” Foster said. “We are the best team and they’ve proven that this year and the last five years. That’s something you can either get nervous thinking about or you can draw confidence from.”
Creighton features two local products in Ryan Norman, a three-time state champion at Independent, and Smoky Valley’s Quinn Dippel, also a three-time state champion.
WSU defeated Southern Illinois 6-1 and Creighton 7-0 in the regular season.
Singles—1. Rebecca Pedrazzi, WSU, def. Adele Henke, BU, 6-0, 6-3; 2. Julia Schiller, WSU, def. Sarah Rodefeld, BU, 6-0, 6-1; 3. Lucia Kovalova, WSU, def. Carly Miles, BU, 6-1, 6-2.
Doubles—2. Lucia Kovalova-Julia Schiller, WSU, def. Carly Miles-Kennedy Scott, BU, 8-1; 3. Satjaporn Mahajaroenkul-Montse Blasco Fernandez, WSU, def. Elizabe Przystawski-Meredith McDonagh, BU, 8-0.
Women’s semifinals — No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 4 Illinois State, 10 a.m. (Crestview); No. 2 Southern Illinois vs. No. 3 Drake, 2 p.m. (Crestview).
Men’s semifinals — No. 1 Drake vs. No. 4 Illinois State, 10 a.m. (Coleman); No. 2 Wichita State vs. SIU-Creighton winner, 2 p.m. (Coleman).
Women’s final, 10 a.m. (Coleman)
Men’s final, 2 p.m. (Coleman)