More road matches ahead for men’s tennis

Max+Pilipovic-Kljajic+nails+a+serve+to+his+opponent+and+completes+his+follow-through+last+September+at+Easterns+Darling+Courts.+The+Panthers+play+three+more+road+matches+this+weekend.+

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News

Max Pilipovic-Kljajic nails a serve to his opponent and completes his follow-through last September at Eastern’s Darling Courts. The Panthers play three more road matches this weekend.

Vince Lovergine, Men's Tennis Reporter

Another week comes around for the Eastern men’s tennis team, which means, more matches on the road. 

Eastern has another three road matches this weekend facing Illinois Tech Friday at noon, North Dakota at 6 p.m., then travel to Muncie, Indiana with a date against Ball State. 

Everything has gone right so far this year for the Panthers, considering its been their best start since 1983. 

Eastern did see its five-game win streak come to an end last weekend, but quickly bounced back against Saint Louis with junior Daniel Hernandez clinching the match for Eastern, 4-3. 

One team that has given Eastern fits over the years is Ball State. Since 2010, Eastern has not found the recipe to defeat the Cardinals, losing nine straight to the them. And, the Panthers haven’t mustered anything higher than one point except for 2015. The final score was 5-2, Ball State. 

“Ball State is always a solid team and it’s always been a big match to me personally because I’m friends with some guys on the team,” junior Logan Charbonneau said. “But that’s nothing new, we play solid teams all the time and we’re going to go into this match like we do every other match; with the intention to win.” 

But, this is a changed team that could finally dethrone the Cardinals. There’s a large sample size for the Panthers to give teams different looks. 

Hernandez leads Eastern with four singles wins between No. 2 and No. 3 singles slots, followed by senior Freddie O’Brien and freshman Pau Riera and Christos Kyrillou each having three. 

 Charbonneau and junior Mike Jansen have contributed as well, notching two wins.  

The top two spots for Eastern right now are No. 1 and No. 4 slots, as multiple players have contributed to raise the win total, which currently sits at five for both. 

It may not seem like a lot, but freshman Cameron Slabbert earned his first ever colligate win over Illinois State. In fact, that was the only point scored in the match. 

“I feel like I’m playing very well and maintaining a high level of intensity throughout my matches,” Slabbert said. “I also feel extremely fit and I am seeing the ball very clearly and feel confident for anything thrown my way.” 

There is not much weakness in doubles action either for the Panthers. Jansen and O’Brien remain unbeaten at 4-0, and Hernandez and Kyrillou have two doubles wins. 

Jansen explained one little thing has gotten him and O’Brien to this point. 

“I think we both are playing solid tennis,” he said. “Whichever one of us is less confident in our game, the other brings that to the match.” 

A crazy stat to consider is Eastern has played more matches than every team in the conference but Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay are all winless. 

Jacksonville State and Belmont are the only teams with wins, but they only have one each. The Gamecocks sit atop of the standings because they’re 1-0, while the Panthers have one loss.  

Conference matches will really tell the story on who will take the crown this season, but the Panthers have to wait until March 13 to face Jacksonville State on the road.  

 

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