Unable to reproduce the magic that propelled him to an improbable championship at the tournament two years ago, junior Josh MacTaggart fell in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Singles Championships this weekend in Iowa.
Senior Will Kendall joined MacTaggart, who was the top overall seed in the tournament, in the last eight of singles action.
Both were defeated while vying for a spot in the semifinals.
The losses ended a brief autumn for IU men’s tennis, which consisted only of the Big Ten Championships and last week’s ITA Ohio Valley Regional.
“I’m pretty disappointed with the result,” MacTaggart said. “I had a good chance to come in and win this one because I was the No. 1 seed and had beaten most of the players who were highly seeded.
“I wanted to come here and win the tournament again.”
MacTaggart won his first three matches but fell to Iowa’s Jonas Dierckx in a close match, 6-4, 6-4.
MacTaggart previously won the tournament as a freshman in 2009 and advanced to the semifinals last year.
“It would have been nice to win the title again, as it would have initiated other teams talking about Indiana come springtime,” MacTaggart said.
Kendall showed improvement from his performance at last week’s ITA Ohio Valley Regional, reaching the final eight before bowing out Monday to Aaron Pfister of Michigan State, 6-1, 6-2.
Earlier in the tournament, on Saturday, Kendall dispatched of both of his opponents in business-like fashion, defeating Iowa’s Mitch Beckert 6-3, 6-3, and Northwestern’s Raleigh Smith, 6-1, 6-1.
Sunday morning’s match saw Kendall continue his winning ways, eliminating Tim Kopinski of Illinois, 6-3, 6-2. But the IU senior, a Short Hills, N.J., native, came up short in his afternoon encounter against Pfister.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I finished, but overall I think I made some strides since Regionals last weekend,” Kendall said.
Senior Stephen Vogl also participated in the tournament, defeating Alberto Zanotti of Northwestern, 7-6, 6-4, in the back draw after being ousted by Michigan’s Michael Zhu, 6-2, 6-4, in the first round of the main draw.
Vogl faced off against another Wildcat in the next round of the back draw, this time losing to tournament No. 2 seed Josh Graves by a 6-4, 6-0 mark.
Vogl also teamed up with MacTaggart as the top Hoosier tandem in doubles play, going 3-1 for the tournament.
They vanquished duos from Northwestern, Penn State and Minnesota but lost to Wisconsin’s second-ranked team.
Kendall and Dimitrije Tasic, the other doubles team representing IU, fell in their first contest to Illinois’ No. 1 team.
Having finished its most frenetic stretch of the fall, the team returns to the friendly confines of Bloomington, where it will spend the next few months preparing for the upcoming spring season.
“(I) didn’t really play my best and need to make a jump in the next couple of months to make sure that I’m ready for the spring,” MacTaggart said.
With no matches on the schedule between now and early January, this weekend was the last opportunity in 2011 for IU players to test their mettle against opponents from rival schools.
Kendall is one of three seniors on the team, which hopes to build on last season’s surprise NCAA Tournament berth.
For them, this winter marks their final chance to sharpen their game in the offseason.
“The biggest takeaway for me is match experience,” said Kendall. “I was able to play a lot of matches in singles and doubles, and at this stage in the season, those reps are most important for my development.”