The IU men’s team’s bid to enter the NCAA tournament ended Thursday when it lost 4-1 to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
The Hoosiers had defeated the Hawkeyes 4-0 earlier in the season and entered Thursday’s matchup on the back of a six-game win streak.
“I’ve been saying all week that Iowa is a very good tennis team,” IU Coach Jeremy Wurtzman said. “They just outplayed us.”
The Hoosiers conceded the doubles point, something the team and Wurtzman said would go a long way in affecting the outcome of the match.
Seniors Sam Monette and Daniel Bednarczyk lost 6-2 to Josh Silverstein and Lefteris Theodorou in No. 1 doubles. The Hoosiers got their way back into the mix in doubles when senior Chris Essick and junior Stefan Lugonjic beat their opponents 6-3 in the No. 2 matchup, but sophomore Raheel Manji and freshman Afonso Salgado lost 7-5 to Nils Hallestrand and Dominic Patrick at the No. 3 slot.
“They did a good job of securing No. 1 doubles,” Wurtzman said. “We weren’t able to pick it up at No. 3 and that gave them a lot of momentum.”
Despite conceding the doubles point, Wurtzman said he was pleased with how the team reacted in the singles by winning four first sets to put themselves back in a more favorable position.
Freshman Antonio Cembellin captured another victory in the second set and put the Hoosiers on the scoreboard by defeating Jonas Larsen 7-5, 7-5 in No. 5 singles.
Iowa made it 3-1 when Robin Haden beat Bednarczyk 6-4, 7-5 in No. 2 singles, and Dominic Patrick got the clincher when he beat Salgado 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 at No. 6 singles.
“It was extremely disappointing,” Monette said. “Congrats to Iowa, they played great tennis today, but it was disappointing because I think our team was ready. I’m also very sad because it’s my last college tennis match. It’s a strange feeling.”
Monette was playing in the third set at No. 1 singles at the time of the clincher. He said he experienced a mix of emotions that ranged from disappointment to nostalgia. He also said he was trying to find solutions to outwit his opponent.
“I wasn’t playing my best tennis today,” Monette said. “As a whole we were a little bit tight. I was trying to stay on the court for as long as I can and was finding solutions and was trying battle through until the guy is broke down.”
The loss marked the end of the seniors’ collegiate careers. Wurtzman said he expressed his gratitude for their contributions after the game.
“We expressed how much they meant to the program over the last four years, especially this last month when we turned the season around that was down to them,” Wurtzman said.
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