Despite illness thinning the roster, IU men’s tennis secured two wins Monday in the first doubleheader of the season.
First, IU defeated the University of California, Santa Barbara 4-2, and then swept Xavier University 4-0. The wins bring the Hoosiers’ record to 5-3 and keep them undefeated at home this season.
IU was coming off nine days of rest, and head coach Jeremy Wurtzman said he had hoped to use the time to get the team healthy. But it wasn’t injuries that IU had to deal with Monday, it was a bug.
“It hit our team a little bit, which, you know, which seems to happen every year. You just don't know when that's gonna happen,” Wurtzman said. “The great thing is that we were able to come away with two wins even though we probably weren't 100% today.”
Senior William Piekarsky was out both matches, while sophomore Carson Haskins labored through against UCSB, noticeably fatigued.
Piekarsky and Haskins being out opened the door for others to contribute.
So far in dual matches, Wurtzman had only used three doubles pairings — Piekarsky and Haskins was one of them. With Piekarsky out, sophomore Vikash Singh played alongside Haskins against UCSB. This was the first time the pair had played a match together. They won 6-1 and helped IU secure the doubles point.
Then against Xavier, freshman Luka Vukovic was paired with Singh — another first. Their match went unfinished as IU again won the doubles point, but the pair led 4-1 at the time.
IU has struggled in singles play first sets lately. After dropping all six in its last match against Middle Tennessee State University on Feb. 7, IU lost the first two matches against UCSB and four of the six total.
“We're really not playing the level that we need to play or to match their level to try to break them down early in the match,” Wurtzman said. “If we're going to win doubles points, the last thing we want to do is give those guys leads in singles matches.”
UCSB pulled even at 1-1, and the teams traded the first four singles points. Senior Bennett Crane — the No. 94 singles player in the country — put IU up 3-2 with a three-set win over No. 8 Joseph Guillin.
Crane said he didn't look at Guillin’s ranking during the match.
“I feel like if I look at it, it puts more pressure on myself,” Crane said. “So I kind of just try and stay in my own mind rather than thinking about other people's rankings.”
It was Singh who finished things off for IU against UCSB in three sets. Singh faced a 4-1 deficit in the third set but responded by taking the next five points.
“I just knew I had to keep fighting because I had all my teammates, they were still competing,” Singh said.
The match with UCSB took a little over three hours to complete, giving IU about two hours to rest before taking on Xavier. The UCSB match was scheduled for noon but was moved up to 11:30 a.m. to accommodate UCSB’s travel.
“When you have a double header, the last thing you want to do is have one of the longest matches of the season,” Wurtzman said.
Things went much more quickly and smoothly for IU against Xavier. The match took less than 90 minutes, and the Hoosiers solved their first-set woes, winning five of six.
Straight set wins for Singh, Vukovic and senior Zac Brodney secured the victory for IU.
The team's next match is against Purdue on Feb. 22 in West Lafayette, Indiana.
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