Herd tennis heads to Sunshine State to open spring


Rick Yeatts

Maddie Silver returns a shot against UTEP in the 2017 Conference USA tournament.

Marshall tennis opens its spring season this weekend when it heads to Gainesville, Florida for the regional round of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) Kick-Off Weekend.

The Herd opens regional play with a match against defending Sun Belt Conference champion Louisiana-Monroe Saturday at noon before facing either No. 3 Florida or Cal State Fullerton Sunday.

This is a big deal,” head coach John Mercer said. “This is a harder tournament to get into than the NCAA Tournament. Instead of granting all conference champions a spot in the field, only the top 60 teams at the end-of-season rankings earn spots in the tournament. It’s a great honor that recognizes all the achievements that we had as a team last year.”

The Herd finished the season ranked 56th of the 60 teams in the field and, rather than taking the fourth seed in one of the other regional brackets, Mercer elected to challenge his team by taking the third seed in a regional with the defending national champion Florida Gators.

The Gators, who are currently ranked third in the national poll, returned four players from a 2017 team that finished the season 29-3, won the Southeastern Conference regular season title and the NCAA Championship.

Before Florida, though, Marshall faces 2017 Sun Belt winner, Louisiana-Monroe, which finished last season with a 16-2 record. The Warhawks return their top players at the No. 1 and 2 positions, but lost four players to transfers to various Division I schools—including first team all-conference performer Tiffany Mylonas.

Marshall dealt with various departures from its 2017 team, as well. Derya Turhan, Anna Pomyatinskaya and Rachael Morales, three seniors who combined to earn 18 all-conference honors (singles and doubles), graduated. Nikola Novackova elected to not return to school and Daniela Dankanych was recently dismissed from the program for a violation of university policies.

If Marshall defeats ULM, it will play in the regional championship game Sunday at 8 a.m. If the Herd loses, it will play at 10 a.m.

The winners of the 15 regionals will advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin February 9-12. The University of Wisconsin will serve as the host institution for the championships, which Florida won in 2017.

 Kieran Intemann can be contacted at [email protected]