The Augustana women’s tennis team has something to cheer about, a big something.
The team won their third straight NSIC Tournament Championship last Sunday against Winona State. In doing so, the women have earned the No. 4 region ranking, and will move on to play No. 1 Southwest Baptist University this weekend in Bolivar, Mo. for the regional tournament.
“It feels great to be on the streak we are on,” head coach Marc Kurtz said. “It’s never easy, and we have to put in a bunch of time and hard work to achieve our goals. But it sure is nice when it happens.”
This past weekend against Winona, the Vikings found themselves struggling early on in the matches. After the doubles were over, they were down 1-2 going into singles play.
No. 1 singles player Katie Jesperson lost 8-4 with her partner, and was a little shaken after the doubles matches were over.
“Second doubles pulled it out, but it was close,” Jesperson said. “I got pretty nervous for singles to start.”
Going into the singles matches, the Vikings needed to get at least three wins from the remaining four singles players.
“I talked with the girls in a huddle and told them that we’re fine and that we just needed to focus on each match separately,” Kurtz said. “The main thing that I stressed was for us to believe in ourselves and our teammates.
“I also wanted them to believe in our ability and believe in all the hard work that we’ve put in means something and now is when it pays off.”
Senior Hannah Gebauer tied the teams at 2-2 after shutting down her opponent 6-1, 6-0 at No. 4 singles. Then, sophomore Jenna Helleberg gave the Vikings the lead after winning handily 6-2, 6-2 at No. 6 singles.
Next up was freshman Jess Richards who came in and brought the Vikings one step closer to the overall win with her win at No. 2 singles 6-2, 6-1. Finally Jesperson sealed the deal with a win at No. 1 singles, winning 6-2, 6-3 to put the Vikings ahead 5-2. No. 3 and No. 5 singles were not needed.
For the last two years, Jesperson has been playing No. 1 singles, but she says that there really isn’t a lot of pressure on her specifically. She thinks it is more distributed throughout the team.
“I really don’t feel pressure because I’m not the oldest,” Jesperson said. “I don’t feel added pressure because every point is worth the same. I do feel pressure, but I think it is spread out over everyone.”
With nationals looming, Kurtz, Jesperson and the rest of the team know they need to stay focused. They need to make it through this next match against the highest ranked opponent in the region to achieve their main goal of the year.
“We’re playing Southwest Baptist, and they’re a really tough team,” Jesperson said. “There is pressure, but there’s less because they’re right in front of us. We don’t need to put any pressure on ourselves because we are the lower seed.”