SIU downed in dogfight against Huskies

By Matt Ferguson

The Saluki men’s tennis team’s six-game winning streak ended Sunday as it lost 4-3 against Northern Illinois University.

It was the team’s first loss since its Feb. 8 match against No. 44 Memphis.

The Salukis were scheduled to face Creighton Saturday, but the match was canceled because of icy road conditions. However, the snow did not stop their Sunday match at home as SIU continued its doubles-play dominance and won 8-6, 8-6 and unfinished.

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Senior Badr Cherradi and freshman Jonny Rigby have gone unfinished in a doubles match for three of their past six matches, but they are near perfect going 8-1, 8-0 and 8-0 in games they have finished.

Cherradi was strong in singles as well and posted 6-1 and 6-1 scores against Husky junior Jovan Zeljkovic. The victory gave him six consecutive wins and nine over his last 11 matches.

Cherradi said all facets of his game came together in his performance.

“Sometimes, when you are confident and you know you should win this match, you just try to get (the win) for you and stay focused,” he said. “I just played relaxed and tried to win without giving him much hope.”

However, his success was not followed by teammates as they won just two of their six singles matches against NIU.

Senior Brandon Florez’s match against Husky sophomore Dor Amir in the No. 1 spot went into a first-set tiebreaker but resulted in a 7-6, 6-4 loss.

The only other Saluki to win in singles was sophomore Martijn Admiraal in the No. 6 spot with his 6-2, 6-2 win over junior Maksym Lagutin. Admiraal has not lost a match this season, and coach Dann Nelson said his offseason work is starting to show on the court.

“Right now, Martijn is very confident,” he said. “He has great hands, and when he comes to the net he is able to make almost every volley, and his ground play has been excellent. When he can get his serve going and actually hitting aces, he is really tough to beat.”

As the other matches ended, both teams crowded around the final one between Saluki junior Rafael Cuadrillero and Husky senior Max Phillips. The match had a pair of long volleys between the two but ended with a contested 6-4, 6-4 SIU loss. The loss against NIU is the team’s third this season and ended its four-game winning streak at home.

The Salukis will face SIU-Edwardsville Wednesday in Edwardsville, and Florez said it will be different facing an SIUE team that beat the Huskies earlier this season.

“It’s almost a thing of pride,” he said. “You want to beat your baby brother school. I don’t know the numbers or anything, but I would say we are the more dominant tennis team.”

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