Tahlequah Daily Press

May 14, 2013

NSU tennis gets back on track in 2013

By CEDRIQUE FLEMMING
Special Writer

— SURPRISE, Ariz. — Ivana Belejova certainly made her last season at Northeastern State a memorable one.

In her final collegiate campaign, the lone senior and captain of the women’s tennis team helped lead the RiverHawks to a 23-4 record and their first berth in the NCAA Round of 16 since 2010.

Belejova played No. 4 singles on the 2010 squad, and she said she was excited to be able to give the rest of her teammates a moment only she had previously experienced.

“We improved a lot this semester, and I was very happy that we were able to make it to nationals,” Belejova said. “I had a great time this whole season, and it was a fun way to end my career.”

The year began with plenty of question marks for the program after long-time head coach Ron Cox retired in November.

He left behind a legacy that included 12 NCAA Championship appearances, seven berths in the NCAA Round of 16 and three trips to the NCAA quarterfinals.

Enter, Amanda Stone.

The fresh face to the program, and former RiverHawk herself, was charged with rejuvenating a program that failed to advance to postseason play in each of the previous two seasons after competing in the NCAA’s every year from 1999-2010.

And rejuvenate she did.

The new coach of the NSU women’s tennis team hit the ground running, leading the squad to a 13-1 mark to open the year, which included a 12-match win streak.

After a 5-4 loss to perennial MIAA power, Southwest Baptist, NSU went on a nine-match win streak to advance all the way to the finals of the 2013 MIAA Championship. The Bearcats were waiting, and they would again get the better of the RiverHawks.

Still, NSU placed second in its inaugural season in the MIAA and knocked off rival Central Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Championship to reach the Round of 16. The team proceeded to give No. 3 BYU-Hawaii all it could handle before finally falling to the eventual national runner-up.

“This was an outstanding season for Northeastern State tennis,” Stone said. “We proved that we can play with the best teams in the country. We’re excited to get next year underway so we can start closing the gap.”

The squad will say goodbye to Belejova, but with the rest of the team returning and Stone entering her first full academic year as coach, the future certainly looks bright for the Northeastern State women’s tennis team.