Lady Raiders eye Sun Belt Tournament finals

April 24, 2003 · By Nate Rau / Special to GoBlueRaiders.com

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee head coach Randy Holden made his point clear to his Lady Raider squad as he spoke about their goals for this weekend's Sun Belt Conference tournament -

anything short of a finals showdown with top-seed and tournament host South Alabama will be a disappointment.


"Right now we're looking to get to the conference finals and then see what happens. We play Florida International who we beat already. In the second round we'll probably have to face Denver," Holden said.


"Then you've got South Alabama, and they are a great team. I have seen where we played common opponents and we have played with similar results."


The teams might have played common opponents similarly, but South Alabama heads into the tournament as the decided favorite. Not only are they ranked No. 13 in the country, they will be playing on their home courts as well.


"Anything short of the championship match will be disappointing. I think it will be two tough matches leading up to the championship," Holden said.


The key for the Lady Raiders (9-10) will be to continue its progress. Heading into the season, Holden knew he would have to help some inexperienced players along. He feels a difficult schedule has done that and the Lady Raiders are primed for the SBC tourney.


"We've progressed great. With our conference schedule we don't play everybody, but those we did play we pretty much dominated," Holden said. "With our results as far as common opponent (with other teams in the conference), we're tremendously confident."


Holden has consistently relied on No. 1 singles player Manon Kruse all season, the 46th-ranked player in the nation. Kruse and senior Stacy Varnell also give the Lady Raiders a dynamic duo in doubles, forming the 26th-rated doubles team in the nation.


Holden said the key to a successful tourney run will be Kruse's consistent play at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles with Varnell, coupled with continued success of the No. 3 doubles team of Jennifer Klaschka and Laura McNamara, who are undefeated as a team on the season.


Middle Tennessee will face the winner of Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida International at 3 p.m. on Friday.


Nate Rau is an undergraduate student at Middle Tennessee. He can be reached for comment at naterau9797@yahoo.com


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