Dawgs scorch Trailblazers without hottest player

By Matt Ferguson

The Saluki men’s tennis team played for the first time outside at home Saturday and defeated the Vincennes Trailblazers, 6-1.

Coach Dann Nelson said it felt good to beat the Trailblazers after the team’s previous experiences against Vincennes.

“The last two years, this team has beaten us,” he said. “They have been really good, and I think they are still ranked top 5 in junior college, so for us to get the win and it being our first match outdoors this spring says a lot.”

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The day’s only Saluki loss came in the No. 1 slot when senior Brandon Florez was defeated 6-4, 7-5 in singles.  The team captain’s aggressive play helped him close a 0-5 lead to 4-5 in the first set, but he fell just short of the comeback .Florez said his play at the net was used to compensate for a nagging injury.

“I can’t serve very well, because my shoulder has been hurting me, so I started moving as much as I could, making (my opponent) work out a bit and it started helping me,” Florez said. “It’s been tough (with this shoulder injury), but I am still out fighting and trying to have some fun.”

SIU took the No. 2-6 spots with two Salukis winning their matches 6-0, 6-0.  Senior Badr Cherradi’s No. 4 victory over Trailblazer Garret Mandrell makes eight-consecutive wins for the player and nine against his 10 singles opponents since the regular season’s start.  His only match without a victory was against No. 31 University of Memphis’ junior Cedric de Zutter, which went unfinished.

Sophomore Szymon Opieczonek also won his No. 6 match against  A.J. Steiner without allowing his opponent to take a game. This was Opieczonek’s third time cracking the top six for the Salukis, as he has gone 2-1 in his three matches. His win against Steiner makes two in a row.

Florez and senior Orhan Spahic teamed up in doubles to sweep Chris Holcomb and Steiner in the No. 3 position.  This was the first time Florez has played in the No. 3 spot in doubles this year, and to his knowledge in his collegiate career.

Benched sophomore Martijn Admiraal caused this week’s lineup shuffle, as the player was benched because of an infraction of team rules. Admiraal has yet to lose a singles match this season and has won six of his last seven doubles matches with Florez as his partner.

Freshman Jonny Rigby was nearly the third Saluki to sweep his opponent, but he still took his No. 5 match 6-1, 6-0 against Holcomb.  Rigby said it felt good to get out of the Sports Blast Recreation Center, where the team practices and plays indoor matches.

“Indoors I like to go for it, because I know if I hit it hard, it’s not going to (be returned),” Rigby said. “When you’re outdoors, it’s a lot slower, so a lot more balls come back (my way).”

The weekend match was also the Salukis’ fifth 6-1 or better win in their last six home matches. Nelson said aside from the home win, it was just good to play outside again.

“We haven’t been able to play on our courts outside since the fall, so just getting used to our courts again is different, but we will get there,” Nelson said, “We really just need a few more days like this outside because I think we can really be a strong team outdoors.”

With any luck, the weather will stay sunny until Saturday, when the Salukis travel to Peoria to face Bradley University.

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