Despite being competitive in its first two road matches, IU returned home empty-handed in both cases, failing to register a single point at Kentucky or Ohio State. This weekend, the team will travel to the Sooner State in search of its first away victory in a Sunday showdown with No. 19 Oklahoma.
Led by the No. 4 player in the country, Costin Paval, the Sooners are sure to present a stern test, as they boast a loaded lineup featuring five players ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 125.
“It’s going to be a tough match,” IU Coach Randy Bloemendaal said. “I have a whole lot of respect for the program and what they’re doing there. That said, I think we have a good chance of coming out on top.”
On the strength of three victories against ranked foes already, the Hoosiers have seen their own team ranking rise all the way to No. 25. IU (6-2) enters the match with momentum, having knocked off No. 30 Notre Dame, No. 43 Vanderbilt and No. 60 Harvard in the past two weeks.
Bloemendaal said trips such as this weekend’s, which will take the team about 750 miles from Bloomington to Norman, Okla., are crucial to the team’s development.
“They prepare us for later in the season, especially the Big Ten,” Bloemendaal said. “Our goal is to be ranked in the top 10, and we must win some tough matches on the road to get there. The very reason why we play these matches is to test ourselves.”
Bloemendaal said the point of emphasis this week has been the play of the bottom of the lineup. He added that the fourth, fifth and sixth singles slots haven’t been achieving to their fullest potential thus far this season.
“We have to be better at the bottom moving forward,” Bloemendaal said. “Improving there and in doubles will be key for us as the season progresses.”
For top IU singles netter Isade Juneau, the westward trip will provide another chance for the Quebec native to make his mark individually against a top 10 foe. This time, he will square off against Paval. Two weekends ago, Juneau took the first set from Ohio State’s premier player, No. 8 Blaz Rola, and led in the second before his match was called off.
IU will face five ranked opponents in singles play. Paval leads the group, which also includes No. 38 Tsvetan Mihov, No. 39 Peerakit Siributwong, No. 53 Guillermo Alcorta and No. 63 Dane Webb.