The SIU men’s tennis season ended with a loss Friday to Illinois State University at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships in Omaha, Neb.
The Salukis dropped their final match of the season to finish with a 9-13 record overall. The team went into the No. 6 singles match tied 3-3 but couldn’t capture the win as it lost 4-3.
The match started with doubles play as No. 1 pair senior Stanislas Rodier and junior Brandon Florez captured an 8-3 win against ISU partners Alexander Pelaez and Tuomas Manner, who spent the majority of the year nationally ranked. No. 3 pair Badr Cherradi and Jordan Snyder lost 8-5, but No. 2 partners junior Orhan Spahic and freshman Syzmon Opieczonek were able to clinch the doubles point with an 8-6 win.
The momentum from the doubles point did not go over into singles play, as the Salukis dropped four out of six singles matches.
Florez lost 6-3, 6-2, but Spahic won at No. 4 for the first win in his last three matches. Rodier won the first set of his match but ultimately fell 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Rafael Cuadrillero lost 6-1, 7-5, which made the next two matches must-wins for the Salukis. Cherradi battled back after dropping the second set to win 7-6(7-5), 1-6, 7-5. Opieczonek, who pulled off a win April 21 against Bradley University when he clinched the game-winning point, couldn’t pull off the victory as he lost 6-2, 6-4, at No. 6.
“I thought we played tremendous,” coach Dann Nelson said. “We came out ready to play and took it to them in doubles … our No. 1 doubles team, when we play well, we can beat anybody. It was tied three all (and) it came down to Szymon’s match, and we couldn’t get it done. But I’m super proud of the guys; they played up to their potential, and that’s all that I can ask for.”
Nelson said one of the season’s highlights was when the team started the season with a nationally ranked doubles team of freshman Martijn Admiraal and Florez and the team’s dramatic home win against Bradley.
“For our guys to do what we did, having the toughest schedule since I’ve been here, us finishing third in the conference and going 9-13, is a testament to the guys and how hard they worked,” Nelson said. “We improved throughout the season, and we played our best at the end, which was a goal, without arguably our top player (sophomore Jorge Cavero).”
Cavero returns to the team after he missed the entire conference season with a wrist injury. The Salukis will lose Snyder and Rodier to graduation. Nelson said it will be tough to replace them, but the team will continue to grow.
“It’s super hard to replace those guys, but we hopefully get Jorge back from his injury, and we’ve got some new guys coming in,” Nelson said. “We’re hoping to build on this year’s success into next year.”