The University of Indianapolis Women’s Tennis Team has swept the competition so far this season, sitting at 11-0 with eight of those wins coming against top 25 teams. The women won the ITA DII Indoor Team National Champions in February, and since have gone undefeated and recently were unanimously voted the No. 1 team in the nation, according to UIndy Athletics. Alongside that No. 1 ranking, the Hounds lit up the singles and doubles rankings with junior Nikol Alekseeva sitting at No. 1 in the country for singles. That would not be her only No. 1 ranking as she sits at No. 1 in doubles with her partner junior Anna Novikova. Head Coach Malik Tabet said that one of the main reasons for the team’s success has been a slight change in the main focus of the tennis program.
“We have changed the culture in this program [to] where our tennis players are becoming the true value of a student-athlete. They work hard. The true value of an athlete pretty much right now, because we’re talking only tennis, but when it comes down to academics, they also are doing incredible things,” Tabet said. “And I could not be more proud to have a group of young ladies where they give everything on the court, in class, with the strength and conditioning coach. And so that’s what is making this culture so strong, to be able to actually create the results we’re creating right now.”
Alekseeva is not the only Hound to grace the top 50 for singles as Novikova would come in at No. 8 in the nation. Continuing through, senior Alina Kislitskaya came in at No. 18, and then fellow senior Kristina Lagoda would fall in at No. 42. The pair of seniors would also land high in the doubles rankings as they are No. 3 in the nation.
According to Tabet, the time over winter break was key in helping the team prepare for this season. He said that while the women had the option to go home after the university closed in November, most of them stayed at UIndy and continued to train. Novikova, who was named a GLVC Player of the Week for the week of March 1st according to UIndy Athletics, said they worked hard as a team prior to the start of the season, but they are still continuing to work hard every practice and motivate each other.
“Overall, we’re just family right now; all of us are so united. We help each other just so everyone can help to be undefeated during [the] whole season and be number one,” Novikova said. “I think everyone did a really good job, like at the beginning of [the] season when we were preparing for all the matches and we’re still trying to keep up a good work.”
Tabet said he helps the women remain focused after their many victories by giving them time off when it is needed and giving their training a purpose. However, Tabet said there is still room for improvement, which has meant integrating more discipline into practices.
“I think this is where we’re in a phase in the season where we [are] actually restructuring our practices, where we’re making our practices a lot more physical, with a lot more discipline,” Tabet said. “Now I have a good understanding of what we need to improve before we tackle the conference championship and hopefully the regionals and nationals.”
Novikova said that after all their prep this season, the team is mentally ready to show the results of their hard work. Some of this work is seen when Novikova plays with her doubles partner, junior Nikol Alekseeva. Alekseeva was also named a GLVC Player of the Week in February and March, according to UIndy Athletics, and both women are currently the No. 1 doubles pairing for the Hounds and have not lost a match together this season. Novikova said she and her teammate have a great relationship with no conflicts as they head toward the NCAA tournament.
“Me and Nikol [Alekseeva] have really known each other since [the] first day because we came on the same day, and we used to live together my freshman year and sophomore year,” Novikova said. “So I think after three years of playing together, we can understand each other even when we just look at each other.”
According to Tabet, the women on the team have been very involved in team meetings, making game plans and helping to create a purpose in their training going forward. Tabet said that while several of their upcoming GLVC opponents are not ranked in the Top 25, these matches are just as important.
“We follow certain directives on what we want to accomplish during those matches. And, and our goal is to play the way we want to play, regardless of the results,” Tabet said.