Sept. 23, 2010
Healthy Leston leads Northwest into Texas
By David Boyce
Before playing in the final fall women's tennis event, Northwest Missouri State No. 1 singles player Erika Leston is pleased about one thing. She is healthy.
Oh, Leston, a junior from Amona, Portugal, is happy about her fall results. She won the consolation finals in the Washburn Invitational on Sept. 3-4 and was victorious in five of six matches Sept. 17-18 at the Truman Tournament.
Leston would like to have the same kind of success Friday through Sunday in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional in Abilene, Texas.
"I hope to do my best," Leston said. "The past two years I haven't been past the second round. Hopefully, I can get to the second round and perform well. I've been working pretty hard this summer and I hope I achieve my goals."
The biggest priority for Leston this fall was building up her conditioning to avoid injuries.
A year ago she suffered a fracture in her right foot during the fall. And in the spring, Leston pulled a left hamstring muscle and was out three weeks, returning just before the MIAA Championships.
It was the first time in her tennis career she got hurt. Needless to say, she didn't like hobbling around unable to play.
"It was a frustrating year, without playing and supporting the team," she said. "It was really tough. I'm trying to take care of myself as best as I can."
So this fall has been more concerned with her conditioning than actually hitting the tennis ball.
"I haven't spent much time on tennis court," she said. "I'm trying to be physically prepared and physically tough."
Still, she wants to win matches in Abilene, Texas. The ITA Regional is strictly concerned with individual results and very little focus on team.
Singles and doubles teams establish their rankings for the much more important spring season when team scores are kept.
"We will try to do as well as we can because the competition level is going to be very high," Northwest tennis coach Mark Rosewell said.
"It's all the top D II schools in the region. This is it for the women."
Rosewell is excited about showing off the new-look courts at Northwest.
But first he wants to see how his women players perform this weekend. The Bearcats No. 2 player is freshman Alexis Bartek out of Lincoln, Neb., and the No. 3 player is senior Sureena Weir from Midland, Texas.
The tournament is like a homecoming for Weir. Midland is close to Abilene, Texas, so she will have family and friends in attendance to watch her play.
For Bartek, it will be another taste of top level NCAA Division II tennis. She won the Women's B draw at the Washburn Invitational and won four of six matches at the Truman Tournament.
"She's played pretty well," Rosewell said. "I've already seen she can compete at this level playing 1s and 2s."
The tennis coaches look forward to the ITA as much as the players. There's no pressure to win a team title. It's an opportunity to look at a lot of players and begin planning and scheming about how to beat the top teams in the region when spring arrives.
"You get to see all the other coaches and the coaches themselves get to see what others got," Rosewell said.
"This is for individuals and we want individuals to do well. But when team stuff comes around in the spring that's when people are really trying to win."
As for Leston, she's thrilled that she's going to Abilene with no pain.
"Yes, I'm healthy, thank God. Hopefully, I will have no more injuries this year," she said.
"I treat the fall to get ready for the spring. I'm running and trying to do my best conditioning."
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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