After winning its first match of the season against Chicago State, the Eastern men’s tennis team travels to Wright State and Dayton this weekend.
The Panthers improved their record to 1-3 on the campaign, but received some good news about one of its players.
Sophomore Freddie O’Brien was named the OVC men’s tennis player of the week, posting a 2-1 record in singles play to open the spring season.
O’Brien moved his singles record to 3-1 on the year and 5-7 overall.
O’Brien is the first Eastern men’s tennis player to win Player of the Week honors since Ryan Henderson in February 2016.
“It’s a great thing to see,” O’Brien said. “ It makes me want to work harder and get going, and definitely a surprise.”
During his winning streak, O’Brien said it is important to focus on the weaknesses of his opponents, but he still wants to make sure he is doing the right thing.
“Most of the time I just focus on myself,” he said. “I make sure I’m hitting good shape, working the ball from side-to-side, but I try to find their weaker side which could be back hand or forehand and trying to ingrain the backhand or just punish them into the backhand and look for the open court with the forehand.”
While singles play is different than doubles play, O’Brien said adding another player to the sequence does not change much.
“We try to keep it as simple as possible and we just do the basics right,” O’Brien said.
In the match against Chicago State, seniors Grant Reiman and Jared Woodson earned their first wins of the spring season.
O’Brien sees this as a step in the right direction.
“There really good leaders,” he said. “They really help all of us, especially the freshman, and me personally as well, push us towards our goals and they really want us to succeed, and it’s great to see those guys get wins because it helps them relax more and helps their game so much.”
Eastern coach Sam Kercheval knows O’Brien is capable of putting up results on a consistent basis and that he will continue to succeed.
“It’s a nice surprise,” Kercheval said. “ It’s nice to get that recognition. I don’t think anyone saw it coming, but frankly, I don’t think it really changes how we go about things. He was doing the right things before and he will continue to do that.”
The Panthers played against Wright State and Dayton last season but dropped both matches by a score of 7-0.
Wright State last season won its first match against Eastern, with the all-time series now 3-1 Panthers favor.
On the other hand, for Dayton a year ago, it also broke a two-match losing streak against the Panthers which brings the series record to an even 3-3.
Coming into the matches against Wright State and Dayton, Kercheval said his team needs to fight, and the guys need to know their comfort levels.
“The expectations are always the same,” he said. “It’s fighting hard, putting in great effort, do the things we’ve been working on, and not letting things change how we should be approaching the game, and that’s something we’ve done better over the last couple weeks.”
Eastern now gears up for its fifth and sixth road matches of the season, with Wright State on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Dayton on Sunday at 11 a.m.
Vince Lovergine can be contacted at 581-2112 or [email protected]