The men’s tennis team competed in its last fall season event at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Division Regionals during the weekend, where it found success in doubles and made progress in singles play.
The Salukis saw a mix of positives and negatives during the Minneapolis event, but the team will have plenty of time to fine-tune its skills with a nearly three-month break until the next scheduled competition.
Senior Brandon Florez started off the weekend by defeating Western Illinois’ Patrick Hammers. He lost the first set 2-6, but he won the second 7-5 and overpowered Hammers 6-2 in the final set. Florez then lost in straight sets to Wichita State’s Erick Reyes during the next round.
“Personally, I had a hard time,” he said. “I had trouble playing big points and little things that I normally do well during the spring season.”
Freshman Jonny Rigby lost in the first round to Hamish Weerasinghe of Bradley, a Missouri Valley Conference opponent. He took the match to the third set, where he lost 6-0.
Rigby said he was unable to serve well, which has been his strong suit all season.
“I think I’ve concentrated so much on improving everything else that I’ve not done enough on my serve,” he said. “In the spring, I need to practice more on getting it back.”
Senior Badr Cherradi dominated Bradley’s Justin Abrams in the first round 6-1, 6-2 in straight sets but fell 6-1, 6-1 to Tulsa’s Cliff Marsland in the next round.
Junior Rafael Cuadrillero was defeated 6-4, 6-0 by University of Missouri’s Nino Hasandedic in the first round, which dropped his fall singles record to 1-4.
However, the Salukis fared better in doubles, as they have been throughout the fall season.
Cherradi and Rigby advanced to the second round by virtue of a bye, where they dominated MVC conference Creighton opponents Ryan Norman and Billy Paluch of Creighton 8-4.
The two lost a hard-fought 9-8 battle to Alvaro Gutierrez and Matheus Pereira of Wichita State in the next round.
“We don’t make many mistakes when we play doubles,” Ribgy said. “We’re just consistent, so the other team has to play really well to beat us.”
Florez and sophomore Martijn Admiraal also had a first-round bye in doubles competition. In the next round, they defeated SIUE’s Marten Jonsson and Jacob Tanulanond 8-6. They lost to Rok Bonin and Leandro Toledo of host University of Minnesota 8-4 in the third round.
Sophomore Szymon Opieczonek and senior Orhan Spahic were unable to match the opposing doubles pair’s success as they lost 8-4 to Saint Louis University’s Drew Feder and Joe Flanagan in the first round.
Coach Dann Nelson said he plans to emphasize tactical training while the Salukis are away from competition. However, the team won’t be able to practice together for six weeks during December and January because of finals week and winter break.
“This makes their training at home even more important,” he said. “We give them the blueprint of what to do. It’s up to them to do it.”
The team expects a spring return from sophomore Jorge Cavero who, because of injuries, has not competed since last year’s central regional. Cavero defeated 77th-ranked Maniel Bains of Oklahoma State and made it to the round of 16 players in his last competition.
In his little time with the Salukis, Cavero has been one of the most successful players the team has seen in years. He was named to the MVC All- Select Team during the 2010-11 season after posting a 15-4 singles record.
Nelson said Cavero’s rehabilitation has gone well, and he expects him to be ready to go in the spring.
“Having him back will definitely add depth to our team,” Nelson said. “We’re a pretty strong team without him and will be even stronger with him.”
Florez said he expects the team to be better in the spring both because of the team’s schedule, which has the Salukis in competition nearly every weekend, and Cavero’s return to the court.
“We were set to peak at this time, but I don’t think we have because we haven’t played enough matches,” he said. “(Jorge) adds a huge dynamic to the team. He’s one of the most mentally strong players I’ve ever seen.”
The Salukis will return to competition Jan. 18-20 during the Missouri Valley Conference Individual Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa.