Men’s tennis team take two this weekend

Tyler McCluskey, Staff Reporter

The men’s tennis team won both of its matches this weekend for its first victories of the season. On Friday, they swept Western, 7-0, and on Sunday the Panthers defeated St. Francis, 7-2.

The win against Western marks head coach Sam Kercheval’s first career victory.

“I am definitely happy to get my first career win under my belt, but it isn’t about me,” Kercheval said. “But it is about the guys on the team, especially the seniors who are going through their final season with EIU.”

The Panthers swept the Leathernecks in all their matches to get their first win of the season.

“Everyone was able to take care of business because we went in focused at the task in hand,” said Kercheval. “It was great to have all the guys get a win and do it by playing well.”

For the doubles matches, seniors Rui Silva and Robert Skolik defeated Western’s Nikola Pavlovic and Surya Sawhney, 6-3. The duo of senior Ryan Henderson and freshman Ognjen Jevtic won against Ross Smith and Nolan Jones, 6-1. Sophomores Jared Woodson and Grant Reiman beat Brady Smith and Jacob Sanders, 6-1.

“The doubles point is always important for building confidence and momentum going into singles,” Kercheval said.

The Panthers used the doubles matches wins to gain momentum into singles and never looked back.

“We were able to play good doubles and get going quickly which translates to good starts in singles,” Kercheval said.

Skolik took charge at the number one spot and defeated Pavlovic 6-2, 6-3. Henderson defeated Sawhney 6-0, 6-0. Reiman beat Jones 6-1, 6-0. Jevtic won over Sanders 6-1, 6-0. Woodson beat Kerry Nozum 6-1, 6-1. Silva was the only Panther to have his match go to three sets but found his rhythm and won over Smith 6-2, 3-6, 10-4.

“Rui played a guy who was very tough from the beginning and showed a lot of fight,” Kercheval said. “But after losing the second set, Rui refocused for the tiebreaker and was able to close out.”

The Panthers only had one day of rest and got prepared to face the University of St. Francis. The Panthers also had to adjust to the rules of the NAIA.

In the NAIA, the matches are played with regular scoring with advantage for singles and doubles compared to the NCAA D-1, where there is no advantage in either. D-1 doubles matches are six-game sets and count as one point to the overall score if the team wins two of three matches.

The singles matches are worth one point, so there are a total of seven points to be won and four are needed to win the match as a team. In NAIA, the doubles point goes to eight. All of the doubles matches count toward the score and there are nine points to be won and five to win the match. Since the Panthers were the away team, they had to play to these rules.

The Panthers adjusted to this format and knew the matches would be longer. They won their second-straight win, 7-2.

Leading the way for the Panthers at the No. 1 spot was Skolik. That is his third-straight singles win; he defeated Boris Peshev 6-2, 6-2.

“Rob has definitely found his game the past few weeks,” Kercheval said. “Rob has stepped up in matches, but also in practice putting in extra time to get closer to the level he wants to be at.”

Henderson came away with a victory over Luka Dordevic 6-2, 6-2. Reiman beat Michael Hasler 6-1, 6-0. Jevtic won over Anders Sandberg 6-2, 6-2. Woodson defeated Jonathan Pacheco 6-1, 6-2.  Silva once again was the only Panther to have his match go to three sets losing to Lucas Navarro 2-6, 7-6(8-4), 1-0(10-3).

“He was close throughout the match and did a lot of the things we have worked on,” Kercheval said. “It comes down to just a couple points that make the difference and they didn’t go his way. But it was a step in the right direction for Rui.”

With the success of the doubles matches against Western, the Panthers continued their success against USF winning two of the three doubles matches.

Skolik and Silva beat Sandberg and Peshev 8-5. Henderson and Jevtic defeated Dordevic and Navarro 8-4. Reiman and Woodson lost 8-3 to Hasler and Lucas Randall.

“Overall we played better and against a stronger team than on Friday so it really capped a solid weekend.” Kercheval said. “It’s not about winning streaks though, it’s about constantly improving each day.”

With the two wins this weekend, the Panthers will try to keep improving.

“The two wins this weekend reinforced that what we have been working on is the way to go,” Kercheval said. “We will continue to adjust as we need to but for now it is continuing to improve the areas we have been concentrating on.”

To continue the streak, the Panthers will take on the University of Illinois-Chicago Saturday Feb. 13 in Chicago.


Tyler McCluskey can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]