Despite struggles, the SIU men’s tennis team remains optimistic as it heads into its conference opener against Wichita State University.
The Salukis will face Wichita State Saturday at the University Courts near the SIU Arena. The Shockers have won five of their last six matches, while the Salukis have dropped three of their last four matches.
Coach Dann Nelson said the team’s difficult schedule during the season has set them up to perform its best during conference play.
“You don’t want to wait until conference to play a good team,” Nelson said. “We’ve played a bunch of nationally ranked programs already this semester, so them coming in with a national ranking is not going to faze us.”
For the Salukis to beat the Shockers, Nelson said the team needs consistent effort from every member.
“We have to have every player fighting and contributing to the team total every time we play,” Nelson said.
Wichita State’s No. 1 doubles team David Cavalcanti and Matheus Pereira will enter Saturday’s match with an overall record of 11-3. The duo are winners of two out of their last three contests, which includes a win against then-ranked 65 University of Southern Mississippi.
Junior Brandon Florez said the team must focus on starting quickly during doubles play, cut down on unforced errors and force the Shockers to return volleys to beat them.
“We just need to get off to a better start and then worry about making them play,” Florez said. “A lot of the top doubles teams don’t do anything special; they just make every ball. We can’t try and play anything special, just put the ball in and grind.”
The Salukis head into the conference opener without sophomore Jorge Cavero, former No. 1 singles player who is out with a wrist injury.
Because of Cavero’s absence, the single seeds have been re-shuffled, Nelson said, but the team is used to playing without him now.
Junior Badr Cherradi, the No. 1 singles player, defeated then-ranked 66 singles player Pereira during the MVC Individual Tournament Jan. 20 while he replaced the injured Cavero.
Cherradi said the team’s familiarity with the Shockers should help them Saturday.
“We all know them because we’ve played some of their players, so we know what we could do to beat them,” Cherradi said.
In singles play, the Shockers top two seeds, Pereira and Cavalcanti, enter with a combined 21-5 record.
Senior Stanislas Rodier said if the team is able to apply what has been drilled at practice, the Salukis should be successful during the match.
Florez said he thinks the team is finally on the same page, where everyone can play well at the same time.