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Big Ten play begins for IU men’s tennis at Purdue on Saturday

<p>Senior Zac Brodney prepares to swing against the University of Notre Dame on Feb. 1 at the IU Tennis Center. IU will compete against Purdue on Saturday on the road. </p>

Senior Zac Brodney prepares to swing against the University of Notre Dame on Feb. 1 at the IU Tennis Center. IU will compete against Purdue on Saturday on the road.

IU men’s tennis will look to secure its first road win Saturday when it opens Big Ten conference play at rival Purdue.

IU is 5-3 and undefeated at home, but the team has yet to find success away from Bloomington this season. 

“It just takes a unit as a team to come together, and then once that clicks I think that's when it happens,” senior Bennett Crane said. “So hopefully we'll be able to do it on Saturday.”

The Hoosiers lead the all-time series with the Boilermakers 59-30-1 and have won the previous three meetings. 

Purdue is 8-4 this season, and IU head coach Jeremy Wurtzman said they have a stronger team this year. 

“We know we're going to have our hands full, especially at their place,” Wurtzman said. 

Crane said he has played Athell Bennett, Purdue’s top singles player and No. 20 in the country, multiple times both in juniors and college and has never lost. Their most recent meeting was at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Championship in October, where Bennett was the top seed. 

Bennett jumped up 10 spots in the rankings this week. He is 7-2 this season, with all his matches coming on the first court.

Crane moved up to No. 86 on this week’s rankings after taking down then-No. 8 Joseph Guillin of the University of California, Santa Barbara on Monday. Crane dropped the first set 6-2, but took the second set in a tiebreak and won the third 6-3. 

Crane and doubles partner senior Zac Brodney are ranked for the first time, debuting at No. 42 this week. The pair are 5-2 in dual match play and 7-3 overall on the season. They have taken down two ranked opponents. 

IU and Purdue have only one shared opponent so far this season — the University of Notre Dame. IU was victorious in its match 4-3 on Feb. 1, while Purdue lost 4-1 on Jan. 20. 

Both teams are coming off successful doubleheaders. IU defeated UCSB and Xavier University on Monday. And Purdue improved to 8-4 with wins against Marquette University and Butler University on Feb. 15. 

IU struggled in first sets prior to facing Xavier. The Hoosiers lost 10 of their last 12 first sets in singles play before taking five against the Musketeers.

Crane was not active in singles play against Xavier and still hasn’t won a first set this season. Crane said he never really had issues in the first set prior to this season.

“I kind of am a later in the match kind of player, I guess, so it doesn't really affect me,” Crane said. “It's happened so much before, so just don't think about it.”

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