The SIU men’s tennis team could not carry the momentum gained from day one of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Individual Championships into the next two days of competition.
The team competed Friday through Sunday at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Coach Dann Nelson said his team had at least four players advance to the semi-finals, achieving the goals they set for the tournament by the end of the first day.
The Salukis started out strong in singles play during the tournament’s first day. Four Salukis advanced past the opening round of singles play, including junior Badr Cherradi. Cherradi was playing as the team’s No.1 seed, as former No.1 sophomore Jorge Cavero is out with an injury.
Cherradi defeated Wichita State’s Mattheus Pereira, the 66th-ranked player in the nation according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, and then lost to Illinois State’s Alex Pelaez Friday. Cherradi was eliminated from play by Drake’s Anis Ghorbel in the semi-finals. Despite losing to Ghorbel, who is also ranked 51st nationally by the ITA, Cherradi said he enjoys playing against tough competition.
“When I play against someone who is ranked better than me, I play better because I want to win,” he said. “I don’t play just to appear, I want to win against every opponent.”
Junior Brandon Florez and freshman Martijn Admiraal’s doubles team won two games Saturday to earn a spot in the semi-finals of the MVC doubles championship. The team lost 9-7 Sunday to Illinois State’s Willi Peter and Jordan Badenko.
The two days of tennis took a toll on the players’ bodies, Florez said, but he was proud of how they played.
“A lot of our guys were sore, maybe more mentally, but it was tough,” Florez said. “I think we played hard, and we almost won.”
Nelson said the team must now focus on playing better in the later rounds. He said the players need to work on being more aggressive, and cut down on self-inflicted errors.
The Saluki men return to action Feb. 4 in West Lafayette, Ind., to face Purdue University and Butler University.