Missouri freshman Yelena Olshanskaya is adjusting nicely to college tennis.
Olshanskaya rolls into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Regional Tournament today undefeated in singles competition. The five-day event in Salt Lake City is an individual tournament where the Tigers match up against the top players from 25 other teams.
Olshanskaya is 7-0 in singles, winning all of her matches in straight sets. She defeated teammate Mary Barry in the final round of the B bracket at the Mizzou Four-Way Tournament on Sept. 14 and won the No. 4 singles flight at the Hoosier Classic on Oct. 5.
Olshanskaya doesn’t know who her opponent will be at the regional tournament, but she expects to face tough competition.
“I think one of my strengths is my confidence,” Olshanskaya said. “I play better when I don’t know who my opponent is and I go out there like it was any other match.”
Coach Blake Starkey said Olshanskaya has played well all season, but she played tough competition at the Hoosier Classic when she defeated Indiana’s Martina Grimm 6-4, 6-3 and Kansas’ Hayley McIver 6-3, 6-1.
“Now she’s been challenged and she’s answered it,” Starkey said.
Olshanskaya has been less successful at doubles competition, losing all four of her doubles matches. Starkey said he makes the doubles competition tough because he is shuffling partners and scheduling matches against top teams.
“We struggle by design,” Starkey said. “I could have scheduled it in a way that none of them lost and we could be winning pro sets 8-2, but you are only going to get better if you play good teams.”
At the regional tournament, each team is allowed one singles and doubles entry into the main draw. ITA selects additional entries for the main and qualifying draws based on team and player rankings.
The Tigers, seeded first, are playing Urska Juric, Katka Sevcikova and Hana Kraftova in the main draw and Erika Josbena, Barry, Lucie Ruskova and Olshanskaya in the qualifying draw. In doubles, Juric-Sevcikova, Josbena-Barry and Kraftova-Ruskova will compete in the main draw.
“I don’t think people understand how hard this is to do,” Starkey said. “I’m really proud the way we have played over the past couple of years. You have got to play at really high level to have success at this kind of thing.”
Juric and Sevcikova are No. 9 in the ITA poll and have won the regional championship doubles title the past two years. The top doubles team and singles finalists at the ITA regional tournament advance to the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships on Nov. 6 at the University of Michigan.