The Indiana men’s tennis team wrapped up its season in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday and Friday. The Hoosiers defeated Penn State in a 4-3 thriller in one of the tournament’s play-in matches before losing 4-2 in the second round to Michigan.
The Hoosiers entered postseason play with a 0-9 record in regular season conference play and a 12-match losing streak. On Thursday, they got the win they needed.
With Thursday’s win, the Hoosiers avenged their 3-4 loss against the Nittany Lions on April 3 and earned a spot in the quarterfinal round the following day.
The Hoosiers got off to a strong start Thursday by winning the doubles point. Indiana senior Patrick Fletchall and sophomore Ilya Tiraspolsky took the No. 1 doubles match 6-4, and junior Luka Vukovic and sophomore Michael Andre sealed the early lead with a 6-3 win in the No. 3 spot.
Indiana spent many matches throughout March and April notching 1-0 leads before squandering them during singles competition. With its season on the line, though, the team was finally able to close out a tight match.
The lead immediately grew for Indiana in singles play, as Penn State junior Charl Morgan withdrew from the No. 6 singles match due to injury and Tiraspolsky was granted an automatic win. Once the singles matches started, Indiana’s advantage was already 2-0.
The Nittany Lions still managed to crawl back into the match by winning the next three singles contests and ultimately edged out a 3-2 lead. Vukovic and Indiana seniors Carson Haskins and Vikash Singh all fell to their opponents at the No. 3, No. 1 and No. 4 spots, respectively.
By the time Penn State had clinched its first lead of the match, Andre was struggling during the No. 5 singles match. He lost the first set 3-6, and was in the middle of a back-and-forth second set.
Any misstep by the sophomore could have cost the Hoosiers the match and their season, but he forced a third set after winning the second by a score of 7-5.
Andre won his third set with a score of 6-1, evening the overall score at 3-3. All the while, Fletchall was in a fight of his own and entered into a third-set tiebreaker in the No. 2 singles match with winner-take-all implications.
Fletchall put together a dominant 7-2 performance in the tiebreaker, winning the last point with a masterfully-placed ace serve. The Hoosiers took the match 4-3 over the Nittany Lions and survived to face another opponent, the next one providing a much greater challenge.
Indiana faced No. 2-seed Michigan on Friday and couldn’t keep its tournament run going, ending its season with a 4-32 loss against the No. 7-ranked Wolverines.
Michigan jumped out to an early advantage after grabbing the doubles point through wins at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots. Despite valiant efforts from the Hoosier singles players, the Wolverines did not relinquish their lead for the rest of the match.
Indiana’s deficit grew to 0-3 after Vukovic fell at the No. 3 singles spot and Singh lost at No. 4. From there, though, the Hoosiers battled to send three out of their four remaining matches into a third set.
Fletchall bounced back from an unsuccessful first set to win the No. 2 singles match 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Tiraspolsky continued the trend with a comeback win at the No. 6 spot, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.
Andre was also in the midst of a three-set match at No. 5 singles, but a 6-7, 3-6 loss by Haskins at No. 1 clinched the Wolverines’ decisive fourth point.
Despite the comeback effort, the Hoosiers came up just short in a 2-4 tournament loss that ended their season. Indiana finished its 2022 campaign with a 6-18 record overall and 1-10 performance in all of conference play.