Men’s tennis team takes on Valparaiso

Vince Lovergine, Men's tennis reporter

In its eighth of 11 straight road matches to start the spring schedule, the Eastern men’s tennis team heads to Valparaiso this weekend.

One player has dominated the competition lately and that is sophomore Freddie O’Brien. O’Brien has won five consecutive matches, with one of the wins coming against a two-time All-Atlantic Conference player of the year, David Ferragut of Saint Louis.

So far in the spring season, O’Brien is 5-1, and all of his singles matches have come from the No. 1 position. Overall, O’Brien sits at 7-7 in singles play.

Eastern coach Sam Kercheval said doubles play needed to improve for his team. One tandem that has had success is O’Brien and senior Trent Reiman.

Valparaiso defeated the Panthers 7-0 last year. The Crusaders have now won the last four matches against Eastern with three straight sweeps.

O’Brien took his opponent, Chad Kissell, to three sets at the No. 1 spot last season, O’Brien eventually fell to Kissell 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Eastern coach Sam Kercheval said going up against Kissell is always a challenge, but playing him a couple times as well for O’Brien, it could play big dividends for Eastern.

“We’ve played Chad a number of times now and feel we know where to attack,” Kercheval said. “The biggest thing for Freddie is to keep focused on our side of the court and continue to play physically as he has been. Chad is going to hit some big serves, aces, big forehands so we just have to understand that will happen and move on to the next opportunity.”

Valparaiso is 1-3 on the year, with losses coming from Denver, Marquette, and Butler this past weekend. The Crusaders’ only win came in a 7-0 sweep against Xavier.

Kercheval said Valparaiso is always a tough squad to go up against, but Eastern has to stay positive.

“Valpo has been a strong team for a number of years now,” he said. “They graduated a core group of players last year but we know they are still extremely tough. We expect another tough one but one with opportunities we have to take advantage of.”

Kissell remains undefeated this spring in the No 1. position at 4-0, but Kenyatte is 0-1 at the No. 2 position and 2-1 at the No. 3 position.

Now in doubles play, sophomore Brandon Ancona and Kissell have identical records as the team of senior Garrett Gardner and freshman Kenyatte at 8-4.

Eastern will be on the road on Friday as the Panthers hit the court at 3 p.m. at Valparaiso. The match will be played at the Match Point Tennis Club in Griffith, Ind.

The Panthers return to action on Sunday as they play Saint Francis at 12 p.m. at the Danville Tennis Center.

Vince Lovergine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]