Shockers stop Salukis in semifinals

By Matt Ferguson

After sweeping Creighton University for the second time in two weeks, the Salukis lost to Wichita State 4-0 in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Team Championships.

The Salukis smashed Creighton 4-0 in the quarterfinals. The match was the team’s last against the Bluejays as a MVC opponent because Creighton moves to the Big East Conference on July 1. Coach Dann Nelson said he has nothing but respect for Creighton’s coach and tennis team, and is glad they gave him a challenge.

“We botched a couple matches in singles, but we needed to be tested, and it helped us the next day,” Nelson said. “It’s kind of sad to see Creighton leave, but there are opportunities to play them in the future when we potentially go to Drake or on the road coming our way.”

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Senior captain Brandon Florez and sophomore Martijn Admiraal won their doubles match against Creighton senior Ryan Norman and freshman Nick Thompson 8-5. The partners have won 10 of their last 12 matches in No. 1 doubles.

Sophomore SIU partners Jorge Cavero and Szymon Opieczonek took their match against senior Sean Mathison and freshman Brandon Lee 8-5, which sealed the doubles point for the Salukis.

Freshman Jonny Rigby got his first MVC Tournament singles win against Lee 6-2, 6-0 in the No. 4 spot. Rigby has yet to lose against a conference opponent in singles in his career and has won 12 of 13 matches entering the MVC Team Championships. His play at the No. 4 spot earned him All-Conference honors.

The win advanced them to a rematch against Wichita State in the semifinals. Florez and Admiraal played Shockers senior Matheus Pereira and freshman Tin Ostojic for the second-straight matchup, but lost 8-5 in the No. 1 spot. Florez said the match seemed out of reach early but he did not want to end his career with a blow-out loss.

“I told Martijn, ‘I don’t want to lose like this, I’m not going to go down 1-6 and just give up,’ and we instantly turned the switch,” Florez said. “It was a great match for the last half of it.  I have no regrets with the way I ended my career.”

The Shockers took the doubles point with their win in the No. 2 spot, which gave them the 1-0 advantage heading into singles play. Florez squared off with Pereira again in the No. 1 spot but lost the match 6-1, 6-1.

Cavero and senior Badr Cherradi were unable to finish their matches in the No. 2 and 3 spots because junior Rafael Cuadrillero and Admiraal lost their singles matches before the others could finish. Nelson said it is important for every player to have a strong outing in the conference tournament.

“When some guys are losing rather quickly, it doesn’t give other guys the opportunity to finish,” Nelson said. “We are pretty strong in some areas but we have some weaknesses in others, and it sometimes shows in conference play when the matches are only to four points.”

The Salukis will have to account for their senior’s departure in the offseason as well. Cavero said his teammates will be missed, but the team will be ready to fill their shoes.

“It’s definitely going to be a big loss for us, losing our No. 1 and 3 in the lineup and Orhan (Spahic),” he said. “I want to thank them for everything they have done.  Rafael, Jonny and I are ready to become the role models for the freshmen coming up.”

 

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