Colonel tennis player, Niklas Schroeder returns a volley during a match with Eastern Illinois. Schroeder defeated Michael Sperry in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3. (Sonya Johnson)

By Greg Adams

“The Tech match shook us up a little bit, so I don’t think we’re going to let any other teams sneak up on us the rest of the way.”

Those were words from the head coach of Eastern’s men’s tennis team,  Rob Oertel, referring to the disappointing loss to OVC opponent Tennessee Tech March 21.

His statement would hold true, as the Colonels were able to bounce back last weekend against conference foes and show why they are the favorites to win the OVC title.

The Colonels (14-7, 4-1 OVC) returned home to welcome conference opponent Eastern Illinois (2-10, 1-4 OVC) Saturday, March 31.

The Colonels orchestrated a nearly perfect match to walk away with a 7-0 victory and their third conference win.

After capturing the doubles point, the Colonels would dominate singles play.

First it was no. 6 seed Emilio Piriz. Determined to get the first win for his squad, he defeated the Panthers’ Volodymyr Zverkovsky to pick up the win, 6-0, 6-2.

The winning would continue as senior leader Hugo Klientovsky would give the Colonels a 3-0 lead after defeating his opponent Warren Race in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

The Colonels’ Niklas Schroeder would play closer. He too would pick up a straight set victory. Schroeder cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 win over California native Michael Sperry.

Although the match was already decided, the last three Colonels: Joao Maio, Philip Janz, and Parul Verma would each take care of their opponents in straight sets, giving the Colonels a 7-0 win.

After a confidence boosting performance, the Colonels would return to the Greg Adams Tennis Center the next day to face Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The Panthers (4-10, 2-4 OVC) came in hoping to play Cinderella and hand Eastern its second conference loss.

It was not to be, as Eastern kept its focus and put together a solid showing to take the match, 6-1.

The Colonels again proved to have the more dynamic duos as they took the doubles point from Eastern Illinois.

In singles play, the Colonels’ experience proved to make the difference against a much younger Panther squad.

No. 4 seed Parul Verma would lead the Colonels with a flawless game and defeat Devan Faulkenberg, 6-0, 6-0.

Soon after fellow senior and no. 2 seed Niklas Schroeder would defeat Cougar veteran, Morten Christensen in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1.

No. 1 seed Hugo Klientovsky picked up the deciding victory for the Colonels with a win against powerful 6’6 freshman, Marten Jonsson. Jonsson did not go down easily. He battled Klientovsky in the first set, extending it to a tie-breaker. Klientovsky would dig deep and win the second set. The final score, 7-6, 6-3.

Although the match was decided, the final three contests would prove to be the Panthers’ best, as their no. 3 seed, Nicolas Vincent forced a third set on Colonel senior Philip Janz. Janz would pull out the victory in a third set tie-breaker: 6-4, 4-6, (10-3)

The lone victory for Eastern Illinois came from its no. 6 seed Stephen Washuta, as he was able to defeat the Colonels’ Craig Campbell. Campbell would rally back to blank Washuta in the second set, but in the third Campbell was unable to outlast Washuta in a tie-breaker. The final score, 6-3, 0-6, (10-8).

The Colonels’ no. 5 seed, Carlos Pons would outlast his opponent Jacob Tanulanond to pick up a straight set victory: 6-1, 7-5.

Afterward, Head Coach Rob Oertel said, “These are two programs, traditionally, we’ve done pretty well against. It was business as usual for us.”

Seniors Phillip Janz and Niklas Schroeder gave Eastern’s tennis team (15-7 5-1 OVC) its sixth consecutive 15-win season with a victory against Morehead State, 7-0 (9-9 2-4 OVC) in the deciding doubles match Tuesday afternoon.

Hugo Klientovsky and Parul Verma kept their conference record spotless in singles competition with straight-set victories.

A Look Ahead:

The Colonels will travel to Louisville April 5 to take on the nationally ranked University of Louisville.

 “They’re playing with big hearts, they’re good competitors,” Oertel said, referring to the nationally ranked Cardinals. “We have to match that competitive level they’re at. We’re as talented as they are, for sure. If we can match their fire and their competitiveness something good can happen. Our goal is to beat a ranked team, and this is our last chance to do so.”

The match is scheduled for noon,  April 5.