Men’s tennis continue to struggle this season

Dillan Schorfheide, Men's Tennis Reporter

After an 0-2 start to its season, Eastern’s men’s tennis team lost two matches Saturday against Indiana University, who hosted the matches, and University of Illinois at Chicago.

The two losses gave the team an 0-4 record to start the spring season. Eastern had a tough time handling pace against Ball Sate University in its match on Jan. 22, so the team focused on it, especially in doubles matches, in the week leading up to Saturday.

“I think the work we did in practice showed in matches because I don’t feel that we lost anywhere because we couldn’t handle the pace of our opponents,” coach Samuel Kercheval said.

He said his team took on tough competition, but they were better equipped to handle the speed than last week. Kercheval said the other focus at practice last week was keeping high energy throughout the matches.

The energy from his team was definitely better Saturday. He said there was a lot of excitement in the team’s first match against IU, and the team came out and competed well from the beginning.

Before Saturday, the team discussed communicating with each other and keeping energy, regardless of score. Kercheval said he thinks his players did a pretty good job of doing this as well.

The thing Kercheval believes hurt his team the most was his team’s handling of their emotions.

“As individuals we became too worried about missed shots, lost points and had too much negative emotion. We have to understand that losing a point or game is not a big deal and it will happen every time out on the court,” Kercheval said. “College tennis is tough. Everyone is good. Every match is difficult.”

Eastern was shut out by IU 7-0 but scored more points than in any other match so far this season against UIC, losing 5-2. Eastern freshman Freddie O’Brien has played well for his team so far this spring.

Against Ball State, he played its No. 1 player and played a competitive first set. Against Saint Louis University on Jan. 20, O’Brien won in his doubles match debut with fellow freshman Gage Kingsmith.

Saturday, O’Brien battled IU’s No. 1 player, Antonio Cembellin, who is nationally ranked and has points in the Association of Tennis Professionals. O’Brien lost to Cembellin 7-5, 6-2 after playing a tough first set again, but picked up a win against Carl Hedstrom of UIC in three sets: 6-2, 6-7, 10-7.

Marko Stefan Janjusic, another Eastern freshman, picked up his second win this spring. He got his first win in his singles match against SLU and got the win Saturday against William Wale of UIC in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

Kercheval said there was a lot of good that came out of Saturday, and he said his team battled with IU really well. He told his team afterward that it is OK to be happy with a performance but that they cannot be content.

“That is what we all need to understand,” Kercheval said. “We don’t ever have to be content with where we are at with our level.”

The Panthers will host Saint Francis Friday in Champaign. Eastern is considered the “home” team even though the match will not be played on the Darling Courts. That will be the Fighting Saints’ first match of the spring season. Eastern will not get a break as they will head to Illinois State Saturday for a dual meet with the Redbirds.

The first time the Panthers will play on the Darling Courts is March 24. They will be on the road until then except for one more match in Champaign

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]