Salukis build confidence with first win over SLU

By Tony McDaniel

The SIU men’s tennis team picked up its first win of the season Friday in dominant fashion over St. Louis University 6-1, while dropping only two matches.

The Salukis started off the match against the Billikens by winning two of three matches to take the doubles point from SLU. Sophomore Jonny Rigby and freshman Michal Kianicka defeated SLU’s Patrick Kella and Luis Flores 6-2.

Juniors Jorge Cavero and Szymon Opieczonek also won their match with a score of 6-3 over Vuk Poledica and Paarth Dodhiawala.


In November Kianicka and Rigby won the Missouri Valley Conference doubles title, and so far this season the duo is 2-2 in doubles play. Coach Dann Nelson said the two play very well together.

“Mike plays doubles like a typical doubles player, while Jonny plays doubles like a singles player, sometimes that’s a good combination,” he said. “They play with emotion, they play with some fire and they’ve got energy…They compliment each other’s game.”

Singles play started off when Rigby defeated Kella in a close match 6-5(5), 6-4. Kianicka, Cavero and Opieczonek along with Rigby, won   their singles matches giving all four players wins in both singles and doubles.

Dodhiawala also pushed Saluki freshman Filip Aleksic to a third set but Aleksic was able to hold on to win 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 in a super- tiebreak to give the Salukis the win by the score of 6-1 and improve their overall record to 1-4 on the season.

Nelson said he attributed the win to the hard work his team exhibited in practice.

“We had some big improvements between the last match with Detroit and then this match with St. Louis,” Nelson said. “We worked really hard to fix a few things with each player. Having meetings and working on those things in practice really paid off.”

One of the players who worked well in practice this week was Rigby. Rigby is coming off of being named the MVC Tennis Player of the Week after his strong performance last weekend against Detroit University when he won both his doubles and singles matches.

Rigby said he is pleased with the form his game is in.

“I’m feeling pretty confident at the minute with how I’m playing” he said. “I expect to carry on playing well, fingers crossed.”

Nelson said he is grateful for Rigby’s demeanor on the court.

“He is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, he works hard, he’s a gamer, and as a coach you like all those things,” Nelson said.

The Salukis have dealt with several minor injuries early in the season.

in the Jan. 21 match against South Dakota State University, Kianicka was forced to retire against Parker Lawley when he pulled his groin. Kianicka’s retirement gave a crucial point to the Jackrabbits, and possibly the match win.

Last weekend against the University of Detroit Mercy, Cavero dealt with tendonitis in his knees that hindered his mobility on the court in a 6-2, 6-1 loss to Patryk Koscielski.

Friday, both players showed no signs of being hampered by injury, as Cavero and Kianicka won both their singles and doubles matches. Nelson said the Salukis were lucky to avoid injury this week.

“In two of our losses, we’ve had guys that have been for lack of a better term injured,” Nelson said. “Mike couldn’t finish his match against South Dakota State in a match he could’ve won, and when we played Detroit Jorge wasn’t moving very well at all. He’s had a little knee issue, so for the first time we were at 100 percent. I think that really contributed to our getting six points out of seven.”

Nelson said he hopes his team will carry the momentum from their strong play against SLU to their home opener Friday.

“We should have some confidence now going into the Austin Peay match on Friday,” Nelson said. “We’re going to need it. Austin Peay was picked to finish first in the Ohio Valley. They’re always strong and we always have good matches with them.”

The 1-4 Salukis will play their first home match of the season at 2 p.m. Friday against 2-0 Austin Peay State University.

Tony McDaniel can be reached at t [email protected], on twitter @tonymcdanielDE

or 536-3311 ext. 282