Men’s tennis gears up for conference matches

Vince Lovergine, Men's Tennis Reporter

A double header looms for the Eastern men’s tennis team, who face Belmont and Tennessee State this weekend at the Darling Courts.

Any matches that need to be moved due to weather, will be played at the Danville Tennis Center.

“Tomorrow’s match will start at 12 p.m. and will be here on campus,” Eastern coach Sam Kercheval said. “Pushed back a little to let the temperature warm up enough. Saturday is (to be determined) but does look to be headed indoors.”

With the possibility of playing at the Danville courts, Kercheval said Danville is a home facility for the Panthers, so there is nothing to worry about from a location standpoint.

Conference play has not been all too kind for the Panthers standing at 0-3. But those fortunes could change against Tennessee State.

Prior to 2016, Eastern won nine straight matches against the Tigers, with two wins coming in 2013.

In most of those matches, Eastern swept the match, or won 6-1.

Belmont on the other hand has given the Panthers some trouble. Since 2013, Eastern has lost each match against the Bruins.

Even though each match has resulted in a loss, Eastern has put up points against Belmont, with the most coming in 2016, where Belmont defeated Eastern 4-3.

Belmont has struggled as well this season, posting an 8-10 record, but it has won its last three matches.

Something that stands out is the Bruins’ road record of 1-9, which gives Eastern hope to earn its first conference win.

Belmont has leaned on its top performers in conference play, with freshman Marko Ilic and sophomore Hendrik Inno both having 11 wins in different singes positions.

The wins keep piling up for senior Stephen Goldman and sophomore Vincent Sterkens who both have notched eight wins a piece.

As for doubles competition, Ilic and Inno also have the most wins in doubles, having all 10 wins coming from the No 1. Doubles position.

For Eastern, sophomore Freddie O’Brien has been the leader for the Panthers with eight wins at the No. 1 singles position, and sophomore Braden Davis has four wins in different singles positions.

Rounding it out is senior Grant Reiman and sophomore Gage Kingsmith, who each have three wins on their resumes this spring.

In doubles competition senior Jared Woodson and sophomore Gage Kingsmith are 4-3 in doubles play in the spring. Sophomore Freddie O’Brien and senior Trent Reiman have nine doubles win overall this year and four on the spring campaign. Senior Grant Reiman and freshman Logan Charbonneau are 3-0 in doubles play this season.

With Tennessee State coming to town Saturday, its record is better than both Eastern and Belmont, sitting at 9-6 on the year.

Tennessee State had its earlier season win over Austin Peay voided by the OVC office, so the Tigers enter at 0-0 in the conference.

The wins are also a common theme for Tennessee State, with three players all having nine wins to this point; freshman Stefan Koruga, senior Shashank Nautiyal and freshman Pavle Popovic. All of these individuals won their last matches against the Governors.

Sophomores Kato Richardson and Larry Sloan are also tied this spring with six wins each. But for Sloan, he’s on a four-match losing streak.

In doubles competition, Richardson and Sloan lead doubles teams with six wins this spring, with four of them coming at the No 1. Doubles.

“You slow the opponent down by playing well yourself first of all,” Kercheval said. “Go execute your game plan and that’s the best starting scenario. Then if you can find specific strategies to make the opponent struggle, you add that in.”

Kercheval added it is the players’ job to make the opponent as uncomfortable as possible and best thing they can do is play well.

Eastern kicks off the conference weekend with Belmont Friday at 10 a.m., and Tennessee State Saturday also at 10 a.m.

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