IU won its first conference match when it beat Michigan State 6-1 Sunday. The Hoosiers now have a three-match weekend when they face No. 5 Ohio State on Friday, No. 3 Penn State at 11 a.m. Sunday followed by Butler at 5 p.m.
The Hoosiers lost to the Buckeyes 4-0 in last year’s matchup in Ohio, but enjoyed a 4-2 victory against the Nittany Lions in Pennsylvania. The last time IU and Butler played was back in the 2012-13 season, when IU won 7-0.
IU hopes to bring its momentum from its first conference victory into this weekend, IU Coach Jeremy Wurtzman said.
“It was great to get a win on the road last week going into another tough weekend,” Wurtzman said. “If we play like we have been playing against some of the best teams in the country, we will put ourselves in a position to be competitive in these matches.”
The Buckeyes are 21-2 this season with a 5-0 record in the conference. Ohio State most recently beat No. 20 Kentucky 4-2 on the road Wednesday.
“We know Ohio State well,” Wurtzman said. “We’ve played them in the same conference. You know what you’re going to get when you play them: competitive, tough and difficult.”
Wurtzman said he does not want the match to be easy for the Buckeyes when they visit Bloomington on Friday and wants the team to do their best to get the doubles point.
“We have to do a good job of not making them feel comfortable, make sure you’re up 1-0 before the next match finishes,” Wurtzman said. “That’s what we have to start with first, to do a good job of taking care of what we can control in the doubles.”
Penn State, IU’s second opponent, comes to Bloomington with a 17-4 overall record and is 3-2 in conference.
Despite Penn State’s ranking, Wurtzman said he thinks the Hoosiers can give the Nittany Lions a competitive match Sunday, especially because they are playing the match in Bloomington.
Wurtzman said he is not discounting what the Nittany Lions have achieved this season and is quick to credit their string of victories, but he also said they have played a lot of matches at home.
“I think we are at a very similar level,” Wurtzman said. “I feel we have to go out and prove it and it could be a very close match.”
Butler, which is IU’s final opponent, is something of an unknown quantity to Wurtzman. He said he does not know much about its team yet, but he also said IU is taking all its matches extremely seriously.
“We are very humble right now,” Wurtzman said. “We respect anyone we play right now, and we know no one match is easy.”
Beyond the opponents, Wurtzman is also unsure of his lineup going into this weekend. Last weekend saw some changes in the lineups with sophomore Raheel Manji playing at No. 1 singles and seniors Elliot Yee and Chris Essick receiving some game time in the singles.
Yee and Manji both had wins in the victory against Michigan State, and Wurtzman said he is pleased with the current roster. Wuartzman also said he is happy with the experience Manji had at No. 1 singles during the last weekend.
“He proved himself really well in both matches,” Wurtzman said. “Hopefully he’ll be in the top spot in the next two years.”
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