Big Ten play officially begins for IU men’s tennis this weekend as the team hits the road for two matchups.
On Friday, IU will go against Iowa at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex. Sunday, the team faces Nebraska at the Sid and Hazel Dillon Tennis Center. These matchups are two of 16 Big Ten dual matches scheduled for IU this season.
“With Big Ten play beginning, I think we’re just most excited to get out there and compete to start the season,” head coach Jeremy Wurtzman said Wednesday. “Last March, everything got canceled when we were having a great year, and we’re eager to get back again.”
The Hoosiers will travel to Iowa City, Iowa, defending a ten-match winning streak against the Hawkeyes that began in 2010. This will be both teams’ first matches since the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2019-20 season short. Iowa finished last season with its highest ranking in program history at No. 20.
IU also looks to continue its five-match win streak against Nebraska on Sunday.
Related: [IU men’s tennis announces spring schedule]
“Nebraska is up-and-coming — they recently got a lot of new recruits, so they’re young,” Wurtzman said. “I think it’s going to be very similar matches, and I think we’re really similar in levels.”
Decorating the Hoosiers’ roster are a variety of seasoned upperclassmen and skilled but young freshmen. Leading the way is a group of three seniors: Andrew Redding and graduate students William Piekarsky and Bennett Crane.
“Our seniors, they bring a lot of experience to the table,” Wurtzman said. “All three have been through a lot of ups and downs, through some of the biggest wins the program has had, but they’ve also been a part of some very difficult matches and growing pains in the past."
Rounding out the roster, and also giving the Hoosiers the ability to build the program for years to come, are freshmen Ilya Tiraspolsky, Jagger Saylor, Michael Andre and Nishanth Basavareddy.
The team also counts sophomore Luka Vukovic among the freshmen after he got another year back from the NCAA’s COVID-19 eligibility rules, Wurtzman said.
“I think for us it’s a bit difficult, aside from Luka, to really know what we’re going to get from them. But from watching them practice and competing a couple of weeks ago, there is a lot to work with, and we’re expecting them to have very successful careers throughout their four years,” Wurtzman said.
When IU’s season came to an abrupt halt last March, the team was 8-3 after winning five consecutive matches. Now the Hoosiers are looking at their first weekend back in play as a chance to continue last year’s success. More than anything, they’re thankful to be back on the court.
“The Big Ten definitely did not make it easy on us with a long trip this weekend, but our mindset is in a place where we are grateful to get out and compete and play as a team,” Wurtzman said. “This is going to be tough and difficult both individually and as a team, and I think it comes to who handles nerves a little better. It’s always tough to win on the road but I’m not saying we have our work cut out for us; we’ve prepared and are ready to give it all.”