Women’s tennis wins Sun Belt title while overcoming devastating injuries

Georgia State won the 2018 Sun Belt Conference Tournament despite forfeiting wins in each round, when senior Kristin Rehse clinched the 4-2 win over South Alabama in the finals. The 4-2 win is Georgia State’s second over South Alabama for the Sun Belt title in three years, the last coming in 2016.

“It’s just really great to end the season as a senior by winning the conference. I won it two years ago with my team and I honestly didn’t believe that we could do it this year again especially because we were down to four players. It’s really great that we just believed in ourselves and sticked together,“ Rehse said.

Injures forced the Panthers to forfeit two wins in the quarterfinals against Appalachian. In the semifinals, they forfeited two singles wins and one doubles win. Just seven Panthers were available for the match against Appalachian State in comparison to the nine for the Mountaineers.

“It was really tough, but kind of over the season we got used to it and kind of believed in ourselves even more because we knew that every point was counting and we really had to give it all,” Rehse said. “Especially in the conference tournament; we cannot just falter. We thought ‘it’s our time right now. We have to just do it and try our best,’” Rehse said.

Georgia State has conceded wins in every match since their March 17 meeting with Furman. The Panthers entered the tournament as the two-seed, but were on a three-game losing streak and 2-7 in their last nine matches. They held a 3-4 conference record prior to the tournament and finished 6-4.

At 12-14 overall, Georgia State still own a losing record entering the NCAA Tournament. The Sun Belt tournament played in Peachtree City, Georgia was just 30 miles away from Georgia State’s Atlanta campus, but those matches are most likely their last home-field advantage. The Panthers will take the same approach they used to survive the unpredictable season.

“I think [we will be successful if we] just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Just control what we can control and give it everything everyday and take care of the details because it’s not just about giving it all when we actually have the big matches. It’s about the practices and everything we do before to prepare,” Rehse said.

Rehse, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year is extremely valuable for the Panthers as a leader and on the court. She’s been a constant that head coach Jason Marshall counts on in the No. 1 singles position; during the spring, Rehse is 18-7 overall and 8-1 in conference. The only surprise involving Rehse was her selection for conference player of the year.

“I was really exciting and also kinda surprised. I really didn’t expect it. I was actually practicing with our volunteer coach and then she said ‘oh, you’re player of the year’ and I was like ‘what! That’s crazy.’ It’s so great that I get to experience all that in my last year.”

Georgia State’s first NCAA Tournament match is at No. 7 Georgia in Athens, Georgia on May 11 at 11 p.m.