Men’s tennis team on road again for doubleheader

Vince Lovergine, Men's tennis reporter

After winning its second match of the season against Saint Francis, the Panthers will look to build on that, now that the long road trip is finally coming to a close this weekend for the Eastern men’s tennis team.

Eastern starts the weekend at North Central College on Friday and Southern Utah in Chicago on Saturday.

This could benefit the Panthers because the Cardinals of North Central stand at 2-4, and have lost their last two matches. For the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah, they’re 2-5 on the year coming off their recent loss to Seattle University.

For the Cardinals, they’re 2-2 at home in Naperville, but for Eastern it’s 1-7 on the road.

Southern Utah has not fared well on the road this year either, with a 1-5 record.

Coming off its recent win, this could help Eastern collect a win or two this weekend.

The Panthers stand at 2-7 in the spring schedule, but some players are coming around with conference play less than a month away.

Sophomore Freddie O’Brien’s hot streak continued after picking up another win against Saint Francis, compiling six wins over his last seven matches.

Also, O’Brien is 6-2 at the No. 1 singles position in the spring, leading Eastern.

For senior Jared Woodson, he picked up his first win of the spring, and that could help motivate Eastern in further matches.

For Eastern coach Sam Kercheval, even though getting wins is nice under any circumstance, the team cannot dwell on that.

“Any win is a good win and coming off one last Sunday we certainly hope to continue in that direction. Kercheval said. “Tennis, and really all sports, require short term memory. A win or loss last week, playing well or not last week, can’t consume you moving forward to a new match so while we can have confidence, need to treat it as a new match and be ready for anything.”

Coming into the match on Friday, junior Tyler Bussell of North Central College is 8-1 overall. Bussell is riding a seven-game winning streak dating back to the fall season, and is 6-0 in the No. 4 singles position in the spring schedule.

Another standout for the Cardinals is Lucas Pindak sitting at 6-2 overall. Pindak has racked up a 2-1 record in the No. 5 singles position and 3-0 in the No. 6 singles position.

As for Southern Utah, freshman Jonathan Morales and sophomore Guy Feigin lead the Thunderbirds in in singles play with a 3-3 record.

But, for Morales and Feigin, their recent losses against Seattle snapped each of their three game winning streaks in single play.

Coach Kercheval also said playing new teams consists of focusing more and it could help players not stress during a match.

“When you really don’t know anything about the opponent, it gives you great opportunity to truly focus on yourself and your game,” Kercheval said. “That is always the idea going in to a match but when you are playing familiar teams or opponents, you always have thoughts about how it went last time. Now we have no info on them so we have to prepare our game plan based on ourselves and stick to that.”

Ahead of the two weekend matches, with Eastern’s latest win against Saint Francis, the Panthers sit in sixth in the Ohio Valley Conference overall, with conference play still a couple weeks away.

Jacksonville State leads the OVC at 7-1 and Tennessee State stands at 8-4.

Eastern plays North Central Friday at 12:30 p.m. and Southern Utah Saturday at 3 p.m. in Chicago.

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