Before another clobbering could occur, the Wichita State women’s tennis team had to wait. And wait. And then wait a few more hours.
The Shockers haven’t received much of a challenge this season in the Missouri Valley and the semifinals of the conference tournament on Saturday weren’t an exception, as they swept Illinois State 4-0 to advance to Sunday’s finals against Southern Illinois at WSU’s Coleman Tennis Complex.
Not even a three-hour rain delay could hinder WSU.
“It wasn’t ideal for tennis, but we came out really focused,” WSU women’s coach Collin Foster said. “(The delay) didn’t really make me nervous. Our girls do a good job of controlling what they can control. They were ready to go when the courts were.”
When the rain started falling, the players were forced to watch from indoors.
“We couldn’t run or jog or anything,” WSU’s Montse Blasco Fernandez said. “You just have to keep moving inside and keep your muscles moving. We just had to deal with that.”
Wichita State won the pivotal doubles point, as the No. 1 team of Lucia Kovalova and Veronika Blaskova won 8-4 and the No. 2 team of Rebecca Pedrazzi and Carla Venticinque followed with an 8-3 victory to clinch.
The Redbirds’ chances of an upset vanished when Kovalova redeemed herself from a regular-season loss in No. 3 singles, this time defeating ISU’s Carolina Abello in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0.
“I was more prepared for this match and more focused,” Kovalova said. “My footwork in this match was much better. My forehand was really working well (Saturday) and a lot more balls were falling in.”
Now only Southern Illinois stands between WSU and a fifth consecutive conference tournament championship, and the Shockers swept them 7-0 less than a week ago in the regular-season finale.
Rain or no rain, it might not matter for WSU.
“They want to win this championship badly,” Foster said. “They’re not going to make any excuses, especially not with the weather.”
The Bulldogs were the only loss of the season for the Shockers and Drake enters with an equally impressive semifinal win over Illinois State.
“Yes, I think we are the underdogs,” WSU men’s coach Brad Louderback said. “They’re ranked ahead of us. They beat us in the regular season. If you look at the numbers and everything, we’re definitely in the underdog role, which is great. We’re totally fine with that.”
WSU was able to make short work of Southern Illinois on Saturday after winning the No. 5 singles and No. 6 singles matches with Erick Reyes and Guillermo Nicol.
But Louderback said it all began with No. 1 singles player Matheus Pereira, who won 6-1, 6-1 to lead the way for the Shockers. He also won in doubles play.
“He has just been a rock for us this year,” Louderback said. “He’s a great leader and a great senior. He has meant so much to this team and this program. He was great today and he’s going to have to be great on (Sunday).”