Braves and Redbirds no match for Dawgs

By Matt Ferguson

The Salukis’ weekend road trip saw some close calls, but the men’s tennis team pulled through and won both matches against Bradley University and Illinois State 4-3, 5-2 respectively.

SIU encountered issues in doubles play against Bradley as the team lost the doubles point for the first time since early February against No. 31 University of Memphis. Senior Brandon Florez and sophomore Martijn Admiraal were the only pair to win in doubles with their 8-6 victory over Braves sophomore Ahmed Albitar and junior Ashton Kalhorn.

Florez and Admiraal were a major factor in the Salukis’ close win over Bradley, as both players took their singles matches in the No. 1 and No. 6 spot respectively. Coach Dann Nelson said their play was key for the team’s confidence.

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“(Florez’s) No. 1 match against Bradley really set the tone for the entire team,” he said. “On the weekend, he really represented us well.”

The Salukis rounded out the win over Bradley with senior Badr Cherradi’s 6-2, 6-2 win against junior Ashton Kalhorn in the No. 3 singles spot and freshman Jonny Rigby’s 6-4, 6-0 win over junior Justin Abrams.

The Salukis rebounded from their poor doubles performance Saturday and took all three doubles matches against the Redbirds.

Florez said he was impressed with the team’s resilience.

“We have set a goal that we want to be the No. 1 doubles team in the conference,” he said. “We were down a break against Bradley, and were down a break against Illinois State, but we stood our ground and got really fired up.”

The two doubles wins during the weekend gave the team eight wins over its last nine matches in doubles play.

Nelson said the doubles loss motivated the team to win.

“We just put it to them after the Bradley match that for us to have a chance against Illinois State we have to do better in doubles,” he said. “When we are playing good doubles, we can play against just about anybody.”

Cherradi continued his dominance in singles as he claimed the No. 3 matchup against Redbird sophomore Jacob Wilson. The two weekend wins put him at 11 wins in 13 matches on the year, and his win streak has climbed to nine-consecutive matches.

His streak is topped only by Admiraal’s, as he continues his undefeated season in singles with a 7-6, 3-4, 6-3 victory over ISU freshman Michael Sellitto. Although Admiraal has yet to lose against any opponent this season, he has one unfinished match against Memphis.

Admiraal said he credits his coaches for his play.

“I have been playing really good right now,“ he said. “I have my confidence right now. I have been practicing hard with the coaches, and it is really helping my play.”

The Salukis will strive to continue the streak against MVC opponents when they host Creighton at 1 p.m. Friday.

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