Men’s tennis starts conference play 0-2

Vince Lovergine, Men's Tennis Reporter

Over the course of spring break, the Eastern men’s tennis team played four matches, and opened OVC play this past weekend.

On March 9, the Panthers fell to Illinois State 7-0, but Eastern quickly turned it around with a 5-4 win over Rose-Hulman, giving the Panthers their fourth victory of the spring season.

The Panthers opened conference play against Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech this weekend.

The Gamecocks defeated Eastern 7-0 on Friday as both teams started its Ohio Valley Conference play at the Danville Tennis Center.

Jacksonville State won two of the three matches in doubles action to secure the first point. Jared Woodson and Kingsmith won at No. 2 doubles for the Panthers, 6-2. The Gamecocks won 7-5 at No. 1 doubles and 6-0 at No. 3 doubles to take the early advantage over Eastern.

In singles action, the Gamecocks won all six singles matches in straight sets. Kingsmith pushed his match at No. 5 singles against Cucalon but came up short 6-3, 7-5. Kaplja beat O’Brien at No. 1 singles knocking off the top Panthers player 6-3, 6-4.

Jacksonville State improved to 11-2 overall and 1-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference, while Eastern fell to 4-12, 0-1 in the OVC.

The Panthers also dropped the match 7-0 to Tennessee Tech.

“JSU and TTU were very tough and we expect them to be the top of the conference,” Kercheval said. “We have a lot of work to do to get to that level but the guys competed well and I thought our mental game, especially against TTU, was a step in the right direction. Gage and Jared played some great doubles both days, too.”

On Saturday, Tennessee Tech opened by winning the doubles point picking up a pair of 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles. The Panthers No. 2 doubles team of Woodson and Kingsmith were tied 5-5 in their match, which was left unfinished after Tennessee Tech won the point.

In singles play, Tennessee Tech was able to win five of the six points in straight sets. Senior Trent Reiman pushed his match at No. 3 singles to three sets before falling to Marc Mila in a third set tiebreak. Mila defeated Trent 6-1, 7-6, 1-0 (5).

Even though the Panthers have a losing record to this point, they have seen a growth in wins from this point in the season compared to last year.

Through 17 matches last season, the Panthers went 2-15, but leaping ahead to this year, the Panthers are 4-13.

“It doesn’t get a lot easier as we go but certainly doesn’t get tougher than we just went through so we expect some better opportunities in the coming weeks,” Kercheval said.

The Panthers return to action next Friday playing at Eastern Kentucky.

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