SIUE women’s tennis completed one of the most successful seasons in the program’s history, winning 21 straight matches, before taking their first and final loss of the season to Vanderbilt University in the first round of the NCAA Division-I championships.
SIUE’s 21 wins set a program record for wins in a season at the Division-I level. The Cougars were led this season by seniors Lexi Aranda and Mia Frogner, who held the one and two singles spots, respectively.
Aranda finished 19-6 in singles matches, and Frogner wrapped up the season with a 20-7 record in the number two spot. Both players received first-team All-OVC honors.
Following an 18-0 start to their season, the Cougars faced Southeastern Missouri in the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title game. SIUE won 6-1, finishing the regular season undefeated, and earning the top seed in the OVC tournament with a 9-0 conference record.
Head Coach Nick Mueller said the team’s success stemmed from senior leadership and great cohesion between the teammates.
“Team chemistry was very good. Lexi and Mia were two of the best senior leaders we could have had, and very good tennis players as well. We had a lot of girls that really bought into that,” Mueller said.
In the first match-up of the OVC tourney, SIUE played No. 4 seed Eastern Illinois at the Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville, Tenn.
The Cougars won a doubles point early as freshmen Callaghan Adams and Laura Tupper defeated Eastern’s Emily Pugachevsky and Srishti Slaria 6-3.
Aranda and Frogner picked up two singles points early for SIUE before Adams clinched the decisive match at the number five spot.
The Cougars beat Eastern 4-2, earning their 20th win of the season and advancing to the conference championship where they defeated Eastern Kentucky 4-1.
Frogner clinched the win for the Cougars as they won their second straight OVC title, wrapping up their undefeated regular season run, and guaranteeing them a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“[Going back to back] is incredibly special, personally and as a teammate … Freshman and sophomore year, being ousted in the first round, going home disappointed, thinking ‘what else could we have changed?’ and then those tough days of working together paid off junior and senior year,” Aranda said.
For the second straight season, SIUE drew the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Cougars traveled to the Currey Tennis Center in Nashville, Tenn. to play VU May 12.
The Cougars were beat 4-0, and the Commodores knocked them out of the tournament for the second straight season.
Vanderbilt continued their success, making it to the semifinal game before being knocked out by the eventual champions — No. 1 seed Florida.
Following the season, Frogner was honored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association with the Central Region’s ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award. The award is given to players based on their tennis accolades, scholarly achievements, sportsmanship, extracurricular activities and leadership.
The senior from Oslo, Norway was the top student in SIUE’s School of Business, appearing as a commencement speaker at the spring ceremony.
Coach Mueller praised Frogner and Aranda for their leadership on the court as well as their leadership off the court, and said two of the biggest moments of the season came from each senior.
“One of our first matches, we hosted SLU and Lexi clinched in the final match … and that’s the first time we’ve beaten SLU since 1986. It just kept going forward from that point. In the OVC championship, Mia was the one to clinch against Eastern Kentucky,” Mueller said.
Following the high standard this group has set, the Cougars look forward to next season, where they hope to bring their third consecutive OVC championship back to Edwardsville.