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Herd Tennis hosts Pittsburgh, VCU this weekend

Sports Editor

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013

Updated: Friday, March 29, 2013 00:03

The Marshall University tennis team will look to take advantage of good weather when they take on Pittsburgh and Virginia Commonwealth in a pair of matches this weekend. The matches will be played at the Brian Fox Tennis Center on Marshall’s campus.

Marshall Head Coach John Mercer said the team enjoys getting to play on campus.

“It’s great,” Mercer said, who is now in his 10th season at Marshall. “We’re right in the middle of campus, and it’s a really nice facility.”

So far this season, all of the Thundering Herd’s matches have been played at the Huntington Tennis Club in Barboursville, W.Va.

“We’ve been waiting all year to play on campus,” junior Karli Timko said.

The match against Pittsburgh, which has won its past four matches, will have a little bit of extra importance as former Marshall tennis star Micheala Kissell-Eddins returns to Huntington as coach of the Panthers.

“It’s definitely really weird,” senior Dominika Zaprazna said. “We played together for two years, and now she’s coaching against me. So, she knows all my strengths and weaknesses and everything. So, it’s different, but I’m excited.”

Coach Mercer said the coaches do not figure heavily into the matches themselves.

“I don’t think it makes that big of a difference,” Mercer said. “The players are the ones going out and hitting the balls and playing the matches, but it’s good to have her back in town.”

Kissell-Eddins had two NCAA tournament appearances and was 110-41 in her time at Marshall.

As the Herd comes down the stretch of its spring season, the Conference USA tournament looms large. Coach Mercer said the whole season has been preparation to win the conference.

“This season we’ve played probably the most difficult schedule we’ve ever had,” Mercer said. “Of our 17 matches, 12 of the teams were or are ranked. It’s really paid off for us, especially in mental toughness.”

One team usually dominates C-USA, but this season the conference is wide open.

“Usually Tulsa dominates the conference, but this year it seems like every team is good,” Zaprazna said.

The Herd has taken on C-USA opponents No. 46 Tulane and No. 49 SMU over the past few weeks, falling to both in close matches. Timko said the close decisions have not deterred the Herd from achieving its goal.

“After we got off the court against Tulane, we were all saying ‘why did we not win that match?’ They’re so beatable,” Timko said. “It’s going to come down to who shows up to play in Houston.”

Timko has been tantamount to a closer in baseball for Marshall tennis this season, winning 10 straight matches going into this weekend including several match clinchers, most recently against UNLV.

“I had no idea I had a winning streak going until someone told me about it after eight,” Timko said. “I’m not even thinking about that when I go out there.”

“Maybe next year I’ll be cocky, but now I see every match as just a new challenge,” Timko said.

The Thundering Herd takes on the Panthers at 2 p.m. Friday and the VCU Rams at 11 a.m. Sunday, with both matches being played on campus.

Will Vance can be contacted at vance162@marshall.edu.

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