By Greg Adams
Saturday, for the first time since February 7, 2009, Eastern’s men’s tennis team found themselves on the losing end of a match at home.
Samford University would be responsible for ending the 38 match home-winning streak.
Samford (5-2) rolled into Richmond looking for a win over the experienced Colonels. That goal was met thanks to their ability to capitalize on key points and execute in tiebreakers. With only one singles victory and a pair of doubles wins for Eastern, the final score would be 5-2.
After the match, head coach Rob Oertel spoke about the loss.
“No one was happy about losing that match,” Oertel said. “We didn’t want to see the streak end like that. I’ve got to tip my hat to a very well-coached Samford program.”
Eastern (7-3) took the court Saturday on a seven-game winning streak and appeared on top of their game.
The Colonels would start the evening strong by taking the always-important doubles point as the team of Phillip Janz and Niklas Shroeder were able to claim the win, 8-6.
Also, the duo of Hugo Klientovsky and Carles Pons would mirror their score, defeating their opponents 8-6.
With the doubles point belonging to the Colonels, the momentum was on their side and all things appeared to be going Eastern’s way, Oertel said.
Senior and No. 1 seed Klientovsky showed little signs of weakness as he executed solidly against his opponent Zac Dunkle. Klientovsky would take the match, 6-3, 6-2, making Klientovsky 7-2 on the season in singles play. His only two loses coming from UK and Tennessee.
But Klientovsky would be the only Colonel to tack on a singles victory for Eastern as momentum suddenly shifted in the direction of the Bulldogs.
It started with good play from Samford’s Carson Kadi. Kadi found himself down after Eastern’s No. 2 seed Niklas Schroeder claimed the first set. But after taking the second in a tie-break and blanking Schroeder in the third, Samford’s senior leader was able to take the match, 0-6, 7-6, 6-0.
No. 4 seed Parul Verma, who entered the match with only two blemishes on his singles record, would be the next Colonel to suffer defeat. This time it would be the Bulldogs’ sophomore Fernando Costa who would pick up the win for Samford. After a back-and-forth first set, Costa was able to claim the win by defeating Verma in the second. The final count, 7-6, 6-1.
The tough veteran and No. 3 seed Phillip Janz would do everything in his power to get the Colonels back on the board. However, his adversary, Elliot Barnwell, had other plans. Barnwell outlasted Janz in a first set tie-break, but Janz was able to capture the second. But after a dead- even third set, Barnwell was able to escape with the victory,7-6, 4-6, 7-6.
No. 5 seed Pons, who has been able to step in this year and do well for the Colonels, started the match by claiming the first set from Samford’s Alexander Sajonz. However, Sajonz would battle his way to a third-set win, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Bulldogs senior Ryan Shidler would be the last to claim a singles victory for Samford, as he took the first and third set from Eastern’s Emilio Piriz in a hard fought contest. The final count, 7-6, 4-6, (10-6).
Afterwards, Oertel spoke on the defeat.
“We had momentum; we didn’t have an answer for their momentum swing is what it came down to,” Oertel said. “They took it up a level, got back in the matches, and we didn’t answer back.”
A Look Ahead:
Coming off of a tough loss, the Colonels will have a week to rebound before they travel to Bloomington to face the No. 26 Hoosiers.
Indiana (6-3) is led by a trio of seniors who look to continue a legacy of excellence against Eastern.
Coach Oertel said confidence and tenacity would be the keys to victory.
“First of all believing in ourselves, and just keeping on, no matter where your match is, that’s so important for anybody to pull out a match like that,” Oertel said. “Because there’s gonna be some good moments and bad. We’ll have to play our best match of the year to beat them. “
The match is set for 10 a. m. Saturday.