The Indiana men’s tennis team started off April with a Big Ten doubleheader against Ohio State on Friday and Penn State on Sunday.
The Buckeyes were the Hoosiers’ most dominant opponent to date this season, as they currently hold a national ranking of No. 2, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Two Ohio State doubles pairings are also among the country’s best — junior Robert Cash and senior Matej Vocel hold the No. 1 spot, while junior Justin Boulais and senior James Trotter sit at No. 10.
Indiana rose to the occasion, though, and made the doubles round extremely competitive. The Hoosier pairing of senior Carson Haskins and sophomore Jagger Saylor lost at the No. 2 spot to Vocel and Boulais 6-3. Then, Indiana sophomore Ilya Tiraspolsky and senior Patrick Fletchall were able to even the doubles score with a thrilling 6-4 win over Trotter and junior Andrew Lutschaunig.
Although the Hoosiers put up a valiant fight, the doubles point ultimately fell in favor of the Buckeyes after Indiana junior Luka Vukovic and sophomore Michael Andre dropped a tight 5-7 match at the No. 3 spot to Cash and sophomore JJ Tracy. Still, Friday’s doubles match was some of the most competitive tennis the Hoosiers have played all season.
The Buckeyes’ decorated singles lineup made the second half of the match just as arduous for the Hoosiers. Five of the six Ohio State singles players have ITA rankings in the top 65.
Haskins was tasked with facing Vocel, the No. 7 player in the country, and fell by a score of 6-4, 6-0 in the top singles matchup. The No. 11 player, Tracy, fended off Vukovic in the second set by winning 6-1, 7-5 at the No. 3 position. Boulais defeated Indiana sophomore Nishanth Basavareddy at the No. 6 spot 6-1, 6-1.
Buckeye players No. 10 junior Cannon Kingsley, No. 42 Trotter and No. 63 Cash were all in the lead in their singles matches against Fletchall, Andre and Saylor, respectively, before the Buckeyes clinched the deciding point of the match.
Despite the loss, head coach Jeremy Wurtzman said he was proud of the Hoosiers for playing up to their competition and avoiding a blowout.
“I thought we played at a very, very high level,” Wurtzman said. “We had chances there in a lot of those matches.”
Sunday’s match could not have been any closer, as a tiebreaker in the third set of the last singles match decided the match for the Nittany Lions and the Hoosiers fell 4-3.
The match started off in favor of the Hoosiers, with the team of Tiraspolsky and Fletchall winning at the No. 1 doubles position and Vukovic and Andre taking the No. 3 match to clinch the doubles point. However, a sudden injury plagued their hopes of victory for the second weekend in a row.
Haskins went down with an ankle injury in the middle of his match against Penn State sophomore Miko Eala and required medical assistance.
Haskins managed to return to finish the No. 1 singles match, but despite staging a comeback with a 5-3 lead in the second set prior to the injury, he did not win a game after. His ankle became a major liability toward the end, as he lost the second set 5-7 to drop the match.
The Hoosiers still won singles matches at the No. 2 and 3 spots, but the Nittany Lions evened out the series with wins at No. 5 and 6. Sunday’s match came down to Tiraspolsky competing for the Hoosiers at the No. 4 singles spot.
The Indiana sophomore lost his first set 2-6, but climbed back and took the second by a score of 6-4. By the time Penn State had evened out the match score to 3-3 with other singles results, Tiraspolsky was even at 6-6 with junior Charl Morgan in the third set, which meant a tiebreaker was required.
The crowd watched the back-and-forth affair that decided the match, and ultimately Morgan sealed Penn State’s victory with a 7-5 tiebreaker win.
“We fought really hard, and it’s just unfortunate that things didn’t go our way in the end,” Wurtzman said. “At the end of the day, when you compete like that and play hard, that’s all you can ask for.”