The IU men’s tennis team will have a ranking to defend for the first time this year when it faces off against two Big Ten foes in Iowa and Nebraska in its last road matches of the season.
Following two ranked wins in their weekend matches against Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Hoosiers now hold the No. 48 spot in the national rankings. IU currently boasts the sixth best ranking out of all Big Ten schools.
Playing two unranked conference opponents this weekend, the Hoosiers will have the opportunity to extend their winning streak to three or more matches, something they haven’t been able to do so far this year.
“Every team in the Big Ten we know is very strong,” IU Coach Jeremy Wurtzman said. “We’re going to have to go do it again Friday night against Iowa. We’ll be ready.”
The Hoosiers will have momentum on their side for the first time in a while, as these past two wins mark only the second time all season IU has won both matches in a weekend.
Meanwhile, IU’s Friday night opponent, the Iowa Hawkeyes, lost both of their matches last weekend to a top 50 Penn State squad and No. 3 Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have shown to be strong at home with an 11-4 record on the year but have struggled in conference play, only winning two of their seven Big Ten matches so far.
Iowa’s conference record is still better than Nebraska’s though, considering the Huskers have yet to defeat a Big Ten opponent. They started off the season hot, winning nine of their first ten matches, but have been in a freefall ever since. Their win over Dayton last Sunday put an end to a rugged nine-match losing streak.
While the Huskers haven’t been ranked all season, the Hawkeyes did top out at No. 40 earlier in the year. Now, it’s the No. 48 Hoosiers who can boast their ranking, led by an individually ranked player as well.
Senior Raheel Manji is back in the singles rankings for the first time in over a month, holding the No. 116 spot. He will be the only ranked player on either of the three teams this weekend.
While Manji has been a contributing factor to IU’s recent run of success, the largest boost for the Hoosiers have come from the underclassmen in the bottom three singles spots. In IU’s past four matches, all but two of the singles wins came from one of those three younger players.
“For the rest of the season it gives them a lot of confidence,” Wurtzman said. “We’re just really happy that we’re playing good tennis this late in the season.”
Sophomore Zac Brodney and freshman Andrew Redding have the most momentum coming into this weekend. Brodney has won eight of his last 11 singles matches and is 10-3 on the year in doubles. His two wins in both formats last weekend even earned him Big Ten Athlete of the Week.
For Redding, his heroics last weekend clinched both matches for IU, as he remained undefeated on the season. He is now 7-0 with 4 conference wins.
“I’m just trying not to think about wins or losses or anything but just trying to help out the team as best I can,” Redding said. “I can’t dwell on this weekend at all because two fresh Big Ten opponents are going to be tough.”
What could make it tougher for the Hoosiers is the fact that both matches are on the road, where IU is 3-6 on the year. Even if they pick up both wins this weekend, the Hoosiers will finish with more road losses than wins. Alternatively, two wins would also secure a winning record in the tough Big Ten conference.
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