Jacks make postseason debut
The South Dakota State women’s tennis team is set to make its postseason debut in The Summit League Championships after its third-place regular-season finish.
The Jacks finished the regular season on a seven-meet winning streak and finished with a 15-9 overall record, its best since transitioning to Division I. SDSU closed out the regular season with an undefeated cluster and outscored its opponents 35-3 in its final seven meets.
Led by second-year head coach Michael Engdahl, the women’s team followed last year’s men’s team and secured its first postseason berth in school history.
“I think [the women qualifying] is huge, especially for the juniors on the team,” Engdahl said. “I have tried to explain that to the freshmen, but they do not know much about the past and what it means. They have just played and stepped up when they needed to, but it is exciting and exciting that we did it so quickly and exciting that we did it so young.”
Many new faces make up the starting lineup, including No. 1 singles player Florencia Magni. She posted a 9-7 record at the top spot, 4-2 in The Summit League and 12-11 overall. Magni was 7-2 in her last 10 matches and won her final six, tied for the longest season-ending streak on the team. She was named Summit League Women’s Tennis Player of the Week the final week, the third Jackrabbit women’s tennis player honored this season.
Ffion Davies played 70 percent of her singles matches at No. 2 and finished the regular season 12-2 at the second spot. Davies was 16-4 overall, best on the team, and 4-1 in league matches. She was two-time Player of the Week in her freshman campaign and closed out the regular season on a four-match winning streak, 6-2 in her last 10.
“Ffion, from a results standpoint, was extremely consistent,” said Engdahl. “She was undefeated in “clutch-match situations,” which was huge. I think when you get the wins at the top, not only with Ffion, but with Flor, that puts a lot of pressure on the opponents and gives the entire team confidence. Because when you win at the top spots, it has a trickle-down effect, so both Ffion and Flor have been sparks in recent matches and I know they are excited for tomorrow.”
As one of two returners on this season’s team, Jenny Blackburne posted an 11-11 overall record. She was 9-6 at No. 3, her primary spot, and 3-2 in The Summit. Blackburne closed out the regular season with three-straight wins.
Beatriz Souza posted at least one result in four spots, but was primarily slotted at No. 4. She finished the season with a 14-8 overall record, 11-6 at No. 4 and 4-1 in league play. Souza was named Player of the Week early this season and finished on a six-match winning streak, tied with Magni for longest to end the season, and 7-1 in her last 10 matches.
The No. 5 spot belonged to Tacy Haws-Lay all season, as she finished with a 13-6 record at that spot, the most wins at any one position. She was 15-7 overall, second-most wins on the team, and 6-1 in The Summit League. The six singles wins are tied for second-most of any player in the league. Haws-Lay finished the regular season with five-straight wins.
Tiffany Filipovich and Brooke Henry split time at No. 6. Filipovich was 5-6 in the final spot, but 7-6 overall. She was 3-2 in league play and won her final match of the regular season. Henry finished the season 6-3 in the final spot and 6-4 overall. She did not post a result in a league match, but finished the season with two-straight wins.
All SDSU singles players finished the regular season on a high note, winning at least the final match.
“I think [the streaks] show how deep we are and how complete we are,” Engdahl said. “We go into matches and every position can win and every position is important. When the opponent knows we can win at every position, it takes a lot of pressure off of us and puts it on them. From a team standpoint, we came together over the second half of the season and are ready for tomorrow.”
SDSU experimented with numerous doubles combinations early in the season, but found great success with its current duos.
Blackburne and Davies were one of the top doubles teams in The Summit League and finished with a 15-6 overall record, all at the top spot, and 4-1 in league matches. The 15 wins were tops on the team. The duo won its final five matches and was 8-2 in its last 10.
Haws-Lay and Henry teamed up for the majority of matches at No. 2 and finished with a 5-9 overall record. The two had multiple unfinished matches in league play.
In the final doubles spot, Magni and Souza finished the season 11-3 overall, all at No. 3, good for the best winning percentage of any SDSU doubles team. The pair won its final three matches and was 7-3 in its last 10.
The doubles teams had a way of “completing one another,” as at least two teams won in many of the close team wins this season.
Davies finished with the second-best Summit League singles record at No. 2, but also had the most wins at that position. Souza was tied for the best league record at No. 4 and Haws-Lay finished tied for the second-most singles wins of any league player. Blackburne and Davies’ four league wins are tied for second-most at any doubles position in The Summit League.
THE OPPONENT: Kansas City Kangaroos
The Jacks face the ‘Roos for the second time this season. In this season’s meeting, Kansas City edged SDSU 4-3 at Kansas City, Mo. The ‘Roos scored the team point with a 2-1 advantage in doubles and held on with a split in singles for the win. Davies, Souza and Filipovich were winners at No. 2, 4 and 6, respectively. All three were three-set winners.
“We are excited about the rematch,” said Engdahl. “The match we played against them could have gone either way. The doubles matches were extremely close and every singles point was extremely close. Even the matches we lost were close. It is going to be a battle of the 50-50 variety, decided by who wants it more and who handles the low points better. It is not going to be who plays the best tennis, but who handles the swings better and stays mentally strong. It is going to be a good weekend.”
Kansas City finished in second place in the regular season standings and the No. 2 seed. The ‘Roos finished 10-13 overall and 6-1 in league play. Other than its lone league loss versus Fort Wayne (4-0) and narrow win versus SDSU, Kansas City did not lose more than one team point in any league meet.
The Kangaroos have three top-two singles players at their respective positions in the league. Eva Dalvai tied for the best record at 3-0 in the No. 3 spot. Laura Bouet was second-best at No. 1 with a 6-1 record, as was Gabby Pintos at No. 6 with a 3-1 record.
While all of SDSU’s meets were on the road this season, the Jacks were 5-2 on neutral courts. The loss versus Kansas City earlier this season was in Kansas City, Mo. The team did not play in Fort Wayne this season. Both teams are seeking the first tournament championship in school history.
Start time is set for 6 p.m. (CST) on Friday, April 26, in Fort Wayne, Ind. The meet is the second women’s semifinal of the day, as top-seeded and championships host Fort Wayne meets fourth-seeded South Dakota at 12 p.m.