The Indiana men’s tennis team traveled down to the Sunshine State to take on the No. 65 University of South Florida Bulls in its penultimate nonconference match of the spring season.
Wednesday’s outing was the second consecutive match in which the Hoosiers have faced an opponent ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 75 and played on outdoor courts. The weather in Tampa Bay, Florida, posted temperatures of over 80 degrees with 63 percent humidity in the afternoon.
“We really haven’t seen that weather since the summer, but it was something that we talked about,” head coach Jeremy Wurtzman said. “We got a day of practice in and felt good about it, but until you’re out there playing, it’s hard to simulate those mental and physical feelings of playing in that type of heat and humidity.”
The fierce Florida climate proved to be a handful for the Hoosiers, especially after an hour-long round of doubles competition during which all three matches were decided by tiebreakers.
Indiana junior Luka Vukovic and sophomore Michael Andre dropped the No. 3 doubles match to the South Florida pairing of junior Sergio Gomez Montesa and sophomore Alvin Tudorica 6-7(2-7). Immediately following the conclusion of the first match, the No. 2 team of Indiana sophomore Ilya Tiraspolsky and senior Patrick Fletchall answered with a 7-6(7-4) win over South Florida junior Chase Ferguson and sophomore Manuel Goncalves.
The deciding match for the doubles point fell in the hands of Hoosier seniors Carson Haskins and Vikash Singh at the No. 1 position. Despite holding an early lead in their match, the Hoosiers couldn’t hold off their opponents and lost 6-7(1-7), which sealed the doubles point for the Bulls.
“I thought we were just as good as them today,” Wurtzman said. “The doubles point was extremely close, and throughout the singles lineup, we were in the majority of the matches.”
In contrast to its 0-7 sweep against a top-25 Auburn University team last week, Indiana got itself on the scoreboard twice against South Florida. The final score was 5-2 in favor of the Bulls, but many of the singles matches came down to the wire.
Losses at the No. 1, 4 and 5 singles positions sealed the Hoosiers’ fate, but a lot of their best play came after the loss became official.
Fletchall battled back from an early deficit to snatch the lead and ultimately take the No. 2 singles match 3-6, 6-4, 10-6. Indiana’s second point came at the No. 6 spot from Andre, who won in straight sets against sophomore Bruno Oliveira 6-4, 6-4.
Wurtzman said Indiana needs to do two things to “get over the hump” and be able to finish against strong competition: practice harder and win one of its tight matches.
“If we can push ourselves harder and do a little bit of extra work, it will pay off, because we’re not far off,” Wurtzman said. “Maybe it takes winning one time for us to believe that we can do it moving on and get more wins and momentum.”
Even so, the trip to Tampa Bay was beneficial to the Hoosiers and is helping them build good habits moving forward.
“It’s a privilege to be down here and to be able to play a ranked, high quality opponent,” Wurtzman said. “The more we put ourselves out there and work hard, we’ll get better from it.”
Indiana will continue its stretch of ranked competition on March 23 against No. 29 Vanderbilt University. The match will be played in Nashville, Tennessee, after being rescheduled from an earlier date in the season, and it is the Hoosiers’ last nonconference contest of the season.