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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Men's tennis putting it together

Hoosiers struggle as team, soar in individual performances

Entering the Big Ten Championships today in Madison, Wis., the box scores depict an IU men's tennis team whose play has been mediocre in recent weeks. But a look at individual performance reveals a team gaining confidence. \nPerhaps the most prominent late-season improvement comes from senior Milan Rakvica. Playing at the No. 1 singles position, Rakvica has claimed victory against five of his last seven opponents. He was named Big Ten Co-Athlete of the Week in early April after upsetting No. 20 Graydon Oliver of Illinois in consecutive sets and knocking off Brad Erikson of Northwestern. Rakvica followed with another win against No. 54 Phillip Metz of Ohio State. \n"Milan has been playing extremely well," Coach Ken Hydinger said. "He really has not played a bad match all season, and I like the way he has played. He is definitely better outdoors, and that has shown recently with his match play. He is playing with great consistency and control, and that wins matches."\nAlso streaking to the finish is senior Ian Arons. Playing in the No. 2 spot for the Hoosiers, Arons has built a 7-3 conference record. After opening the Big Ten season 2-2, Arons has won five of his last six matches to compile the second-best conference record on the team. \n"Ian competes so well when the pressure is on," Hydinger said. "He loves it when the burner is on high, and he fights so hard. The matches he has lost this season could all easily have been turned around."\nFinishing with the best conference record for the Hoosiers is junior Rahman Smiley. Smiley played most of the season at the No. 4 position, but recently moved to the No. 3 spot to replace senior Paul Jacobson, who struggled in Big Ten play. But the move does not seem to have fazed Smiley, who continues to win. Holding an 8-2 conference record, Smiley has been key in many of IU's conference victories. \n"I feel like I am finally starting to play my game," Smiley said. "I've been able to cut down on my backcourt errors and improve on my net position. My serve has more dimensions to it now, and that is a big help against the stronger returners."\nJunior Zach Held has improved, despite missing out on last weekend's road trip to Michigan. Held has been strong for IU at the No. 5 spot all season, and showed poise in his last two conference wins. \n"Zach has got an enthusiasm for the game," Hydinger said. "He is a competitor, and he is one of those guys that leaves the match having left it all on the court. He's a really gutsy kid."\nThe youth of the team, freshman Bernard Tsepelman, doesn't bring the best record into the tournament, but rarely has problems because of his inexperience. Early in the season, Tsepelman proved his ability to compete in pressure positions, clinching a road victory against Iowa. Although he does not have as much college experience as his teammates, Tsepelman said he is ready for tournament play. \n"I'm just getting pumped up and ready to play tennis," Tsepelman said. "I'm going in with the mindset that this is just another tournament. All I can do is play my game, and hopefully that will make things fall into place"

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