Salukis end perfect at home

By Matt Ferguson

The SIU men’s tennis team added a 6-1 win against Eastern Illinois Friday and a 7-0 sweep against St. Louis University Saturday to give the team a perfect 4-0 record at home this season.

The two wins came with difficulties for SIU, as both freshman Jonny Rigby and junior Rafael Cuadrillero faced tough Panthers matchups.

Rigby went toe-to-toe with Panther freshman Ryan Henderson. It began with a contested first game that was highlighted by an argued call by Henderson that extended the match. Despite the delay, Rigby won his matchup against Henderson 6-4, 6-2.

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Rigby said his recent success came from an attitude change.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “I’ve got a completely different feel to how I did at the beginning of the semester. I’m just a lot more confident when I am walking out onto the court.”

Rigby extended his winning streak to four Saturday with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Saint Louis freshman Luis Miguel Flores. His last loss came against No. 31 University of Memphis junior David O’Hare in February.

Senior Badr Cherradi, Rigby’s doubles partner, continued his strong play at home with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Panthers junior Kevin Bauman. His Friday and Saturday wins gave him a record of six wins and one unfinished in his last seven matches. Despite his success in singles, the duo of Rigby and Cherradi didn’t finish their doubles matches as they went unfinished on both days.

The pair was the only one to lose a match Saturday, as the team went on to beat St. Louis 7-0, which was its most lopsided win of the season.

Saluki senior Brandon Florez won 6-4, 6-2 in the No. 1 spot for the third-consecutive game against senior Bobby Kidera in a contested match. Sophomore Jorge Cavero continued his strong comeback Saturday from an injury, winning 6-2, 6-2 against Billiken junior Patrick Kella in the No. 2 spot.

The closet match came in Cuadrillero’s 6-4, 2-6, 11-9 match against Saint Louis senior Drew Feder.

Cuadrillero had a tough call during his final game. When the match was tied 8-8 there was a close call by the line judge. Cuadrillero’s shot hit close to the back line was called in favor of St. Louis, which made the match 8-9. He responded on his next return with a shot that skimmed the net and sent his opponent off balance, which tied the game again at 9-9. Cuadrillero won the next two sets and took the match.

Saluki senior captain Brandon Florez said the tennis gods were in Cuadrillero’s favor on his return that struck the top of the net.

“He could have lost that match,” said Florez.  “He was down 8-9 in the ‘breaker and had a really close call and it would have been completely understandable for him to say ‘Oh my god I just got cheated’ and shut down for one point and that would have made the difference.  But he made a big step up and you could tell that (winning that match) made a really big difference for him.”

Cuadrillero has been the only Saluki who has found difficulty on the four game home stand, going 2-2 in his four singles matches at home so far this season.  Coach Nelson said that it just comes down to confidence, and he felt that the tough win would help him going forward.

“He really turned it around against (Feder) and was able to pull out an amazing match,” Nelson said.  “I hope that is a turning point for ‘Rafa’ (Cuadrillero) now that he has a lot of confidence going into his next matchup.”

The Salukis will all be riding a wave of confidence all the way to Chicago to face University of Illinois-Chicago this Saturday, where Florez is expecting quite a cheer section for himself and the Salukis.

“It’s cool,” Florez said.  “We come to Chicago and (my family) come(s) out to the one or two matches.  In my freshman year, I hadn’t seen them in three or four years, and to see them all there at my tennis match was pretty great.”

Coach Nelson said that in the past his family has come out in strong numbers, dressed in shirts with the name Florez across the front in support of Brandon and the team. The Salukis will end their two game trip to Chicago against Chicago State on Sunday and will return to Carbondale to face Creigthon and Northern Illinois the following weekend.

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