MURRAY — Murray State women’s tennis will open the 2021 season with a home match on Thursday when they host North Alabama at the Kenlake Tennis Center. The Racers return to competitive action for the first time since Feb. 29, 2020 when their previous campaign was brought to an unexpected end due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Racers went 8-5 overall in an abbreviated 2020 season that saw them jump out to a 7-1 start – their best opening since the 1999 season. Murray State will need to replace two players from last year’s rotation in Sara Bjork and three-time All-OVC selection Claire Chang, but the Racers will return the remainder of the squad from 2020. Most notably, the MSU roster features three seniors with winning singles records from a year ago in Stasya Sharapova (12-5) while Anja (10-9) and Sara (14-10) Loncarevic return for a fifth year of competition. Additionally, the Racers will expect big things from Marit Kreugel who produced a spectacular freshman season in 2020 where she went 15-3 in singles play with a 15-4 doubles mark that included a perfect 11-0 run in dual matches.
Samantha Muller also returns for the Racers after turning in a 10-9 singles record to pair with a 12-9 mark in doubles competition. Natalie Slezakova rounds out the Racer returners, but did not compete in the spring of 2020.
The team will feature two new faces in 2021 as Gabrielle Geolier and Sarah Bureau add a spark to an already-talented Racer roster.
Head coach Jorge Caetano is in his seventh season at the helm of the Racer tennis program.
North Alabama produced a 6-9 overall record in a 2020 season that saw the Lions get off to a slow start with a very difficult schedule that featured defeats to #22 Tennessee, Louisville, and Ole Miss. They ended the season on a different note, however, as they concluded the campaign as winners of four straight before the pandemic cancelled the remainder of the year. The Lions are led by the experience of two-time All-GSC selection Nina Linke, while Payton Andrews and Sydney Flesch split time at the #1 singles position in 2020 and went 6-6 and 3-9 overall respectively a year ago. Former University of North Alabama tennis standout Brice Bishop is in his third stint at the helm of the program and has coached the Lions for 20 total seasons.
Today’s match will mark the second all-time meeting between the two sides with the Racers owning the all-time series after they emerged victorious in their only previous encounter with the Lions – a 7-0 Murray State triumph on Feb. 5, 2012 at the Kenlake Tennis Center.