Tennis season ends before GLVC tourney

Haley Jones entered the third set of her March 25 match against Illinois Springfield’s Maegan Flight knowing how important it was for the USI women’s tennis team’s chances at making the GLVC Tournament.

The two teams were tied 4-4 with one point left. The winner of the Jones and Flight match would give the victory to their team.

After two sets, they were tied with one set apiece. Flight took the first set (6-2) and Jones followed it up by taking the second set (6-4).

“I wasn’t expecting her to be as consistent as she was,” Jones said. “She hit just about everything back. Mentally, I wasn’t in it as much as I should have been. The second set, I just tried to forget the first set, and I was thinking ‘you know what, I’m going to win this.”

Jones and Flight’s match was the only individual match to go to the third set that day. Before the third set began, Jones said she felt confident about her chances to take the last set and the win for USI.

That is, until they started playing again. That’s when Jones said she noticed Flight came out mentally stronger than her for the last set and won (6-2), which gave Illinois Springfield the winning point.

Keely Porter, USI’s head coach, said the loss made getting into the postseason increasingly difficult because the fourth spot in the East side of the GLVC normally comes down to either Southern Indiana or Illinois Springfield.

“You don’t ever want to make it all about that (the Illinois Springfield match),” Porter said. “They knew it was a big deal and it would probably come down to that match, and unfortunately we came up one point short.”

She added that the magic number over the past few seasons for making it to the postseason has been three. If the team could have managed three conference wins, then it would have had a shot at the fourth spot.

Even with the loss to Illinois Springfield, USI still had a chance. They picked up two must-win conference games against Mckendree University and Saint Joseph’s College in consecutive matches at the beginning of April.

Saturday, with one regular season match remaining against Lewis University they needed to win in order to force a three way tie between USI, Lewis and Illinois Springfield for the fourth spot in the East and keep its postseason hopes afloat.

Jones again found herself as the last USI player playing Saturday. Though there was no third set, this time she didn’t need one.

Jones won in two sets, (6-4) in the first and (6-2) in the second, but it was too late because Lewis was up 7-1 midway through what turned into Jones’ final tennis match. Though she won, USI ended any chance they had at making the GLVC Tournament in the 7-2 loss.

“I gave it my all,” Jones said. “I left it all out on the court today.”