By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
One of the goals set by Head Coach Mike Saniuk and the UNO men’s and women’s tennis teams was getting a win over a Division-I program. Both teams came up short Friday at Hanscom Park in a matchup with South Dakota State.
Yet, despite the 6-1 loss by the men and the 4-3 defeat of the women, several results showed that the Mavs are more than ready to make their mark against top tier competition.
“The guys just played a better team but actually competed well,” Saniuk said. “They did really well, I was pretty happy with it.”
Ben Williams got the lone win for the men’s team, a 2-6, 7-5, 10-8 victory in the number six spot against Christian Maki. Williams, a senior out of Papillion-LaVista South is now 2-0 adding to a win a week ago in the number five spot against Nebraska Wesleyan.
In other matchups, four UNO players lost in straight sets and freshman Connor Larson fell in three sets to Parker Lawley, 6-4, 3-6, 10-7. Regardless of only getting a point from the Jackrabbits, Saniuk said that the 6-1 loss by the men is very misleading.
“You look at doubles, and we lost two doubles 6-8 and one doubles 5-8 and that’s just a break of serve,” Saniuk said. “The little things that we could have done better, capitalizing on our break points, would have changed the match completely.”
“Maybe that turns the tide in singles and we’re a little more relaxed or something. But they were right there.”
UNO had no luck in doubles matches. The women went 0 for 3 as well, and both sides found themselves down 1-0 as singles started.
But the women got themselves back into it with three wins then had a chance for a team win with senior Caitlin Christy still on court in a three set match with Anna Botzet. Freshman Alex Tran in the one spot, junior Lindsay Weideman in the three and Jacqueline Baude in the five each had wins.
Christy in the six spot took the court around 8 p.m. and remained locked in her matchup with Botzet until close to midnight. All three sets either ended in a tiebreak or a 7-5 decision.
Christy won the first set in a tiebreak, 7-6 (9-7) then dropped the second set 7-5. After both players fought to another 6-6 tie, Botzet got the upper hand in the tiebreak 7-4, giving the Jackrabbits the 4-3 team win.
“She (Christy) fought, she battled, her heart, her determination…she just came up a few points short,” Saniuk said. “The only words I said to her after the match were ‘I’m proud of you’ and I left it at that.”
“For her to go out and do what she did…she played better than her. But for her to go out and make it that tough of a match really says something about her.”
Now the women will have to wait until Feb. 22 to get on the court, and the men won’t see any action until March 6. Both teams have multiple opportunities remaining to earn a Division I team victory.
Though neither squad got a win, Saniuk said his teams were upbeat about their performances once the night was over. There was much to learn and much to build on.
“Overall they’re going to take a lot from this match,” Saniuk said. “We talked afterwards and there was a lot to learn. Just the little things and how important they are that we didn’t do that ultimately ended up costing us this match.”