The No. 58 IU men's tennis team has a quick turnaround after splitting their doubleheader Friday. After the Hoosiers came close to defeating No. 18 Vanderbilt, they will have a chance to upset the No. 1 ranked team in the country, Ohio St.
IU (7-5) will need a complete performance against the undefeated Buckeyes, something they were not able to do against the Commodores. According to IU Coach Randy Bloemendaal, his young team played two hours of great tennis to start against Vanderbilt before giving away their lead.
Against the Buckeyes this is not an option.
One advantage for the Hoosiers according to Bloemendaal is the location of the match.
"It's a huge advantage to have that team on our home courts," Bloemendaal said. "The only question is are we going to take advantage of that opportunity."
The Hoosiers will have their hands full from the start of the match. The Buckeyes are one of the best doubles team in the country led by the No. 2 overall doubles pairing, senior Peter Kobelt and redshirt junior Kevin Metka.
The team tasked with playing the experienced Kobelt and Metka will be the sophomore pairing of Daniel Bednarczyk and Samuel Monette. This will just the third time the young duo plays at No. 1 doubles, the last time when they fell to the No. 6 pairing in the nation 8-7.
In addition to a talented doubles team the Buckeyes are also one of the deepest and most experienced teams in the country, especially at the bottom of the lineup.
"The bottom of the lineup is firming up more I think every match, but we're probably facing the best in the country at the bottom of the lineup," Bloemendaal said. "It's going to be a good test to see where we're at."
Another key for the young Hoosiers will be the performance of their upperclassmen, senior Dimitrije Tasic and junior Sven Lalic.
Friday the duo excelled in doubles, going 2-0, but struggled mightily in singles going a combined 1-3. Lalic's struggles in particular have become a growing trend, and one that troubles Bloemendaal not just for Monday, but for the remainder of the season.
"I think Sven bouncing back is a key to our season," Bloemendaal said. "I don't know if I look at it as a key to this next match, but it's definitely a key to us coming through against these ranked teams that are coming in here."
A final key for success on Monday will be the Hoosiers ability to close a match, something they consistently struggle with.
The Hoosiers have played two ranked opponents at home this year, Vanderbilt and No. 27 NC State. The Hoosiers lost both matches, but not before holding a lead late in both.
"It's definitely not a one liner or a cliche that's going to get you over the hump, but we are always working on things that are going to help them finish their matches," Bloemendaal said. "A lot of it is figuring out who you are and becoming the best version of yourself, and then trusting yourself at the end of the match."
Bloemendaal continued on to say that he believes closing a tennis match with the lead is the most difficult thing in sports, and is something that some players spend a lifetime trying to learn.
The Hoosiers need to learn quickly if they hope to become the first team to beat the Buckeyes this year.
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