Tennis Heads To Summit Tourney

April 25, 2012
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Olia Tatarchenko
Olia Tatarchenko
Courtesy: SUU Strategic Communications
CEDAR CITY, April 25 - Southern Utah's women's tennis team heads to the Summit League Championship tournament in Kansas City, Mo. this week. The Thunderbirds, who are making their fifth straight appearance in the tournament,  are scheduled to meet Oral Roberts Friday at 10:00 a.m. (CDT) at the Plaza Tennis Center in the opening round.

The Thunderbirds (9-9/5-3 Summit League) enter the four-team single-elimination tournament as the fourth seed. Oral Roberts (11-5/8-0) is the top seed after completing an undefeated season. IPFW (17-10/7-1) and UMKC (6-2/13-11) round out the field.

Should SUU get past ORU it will face the winner of the IPFW/UMKC match on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. The conference champion earns a berth in the NCAA regionals.

SUU has never won the Summit League title but has played in the finals of the tournament twice, the last time in 2008 when the third-seeded T-Birds lost to top-seed Oral Roberts. SUU also plaed for the title in 2005, also as a three seed, but lost to regular-season champ Valparaiso in the finals.

Head Coach Lenny Lee (Temple, 1977) is in his 19th season as SUU's head coach. The 2008, 2009 and 2011 Summit League Coach of the Year, Coach Lee has compiled a career dual match record of 246-223 through 29 years of coaching, including a 70-42 Summit League mark. His teams have claimed six conference or district championships and over the past 15 years his program has been one of the most successful at Southern Utah University. During his 27 years as a collegiate coach Lee has mentored players at Montgomery County (PA) Community College, Eastern University (PA) and The College of New Jersey as well as at SUU. He picked up his 200th career win in April 2008 when the Thunderbirds upset IPFW in the semi-finals of the Summit League tournament.

T-Birds Picked Second In Pre-Season Summit League Poll: Southern Utah was picked to finish second in the Summit League this season in a poll of the conference's coaches. The Thunderbirds received 55 points, including two first-place votes, to finish behind top pick and defending champion IPFW, which garnered with the other seven first-place votes and 61 total points. UMKC, which upset SUU in the first round of last year's conference championships, was tabbed third with 53 points, while Oral Roberts, the 2009 champion, was  fourth with 43 points. IUPUI and South Dakota tied in fifth with 28 points, followed by South Dakota State (23 points), Oakland (19) and Western Illinois (14).

Last Time Out: The Thunderbirds won three of four matches in a Summit League cluster at Indianapolis, Ind., to secure their spot in the tournament. SUU got past Oakland 6-1 and Western Illinois 6-0, winning every contested point in the two matches, before losting a 4-0 decision to Oral Roberts. The 'Birds then came back and topped South Dakota State to solidify their position in the tourney.

Last Match Vs. ORU: SUU lost a 4-0 decision to ORU in a morning match played at West Indianapolis Racquet Club. After the Golden Eagles won the doubles point the coaches agreed to play only until the match was decided. ORU won the match at second doubles, 8-1, and with the short-handed Thunderbirds playing with just five competitors the doubles point was decided due to the automatic point at No. 3. The Golden Eagles then got points at No. 1 and No. 5 singles, and with the default point at No. 6 the match was decided. At the time the match was halted the Thunderbirds were leading two of the three matches which were contested, as Alex Ivanova held at 3-1 lead over Lina Semenova at No. 2 and Olia Tatarchenko had a 6-4, 6-3 lead over Haley Martin at No. 3.