By Nick Beaulieu, Nate Tenopir, Contributor, Editor-in-Chief
After picking up wins in each of their previous matches, UNO men’s and women’s tennis both lost last week at the Hanscom Brandeis Tennis Center. Both teams now face a tough road slate, which won’t have them back in Omaha until March 29.
The men play one more in Omaha on March 9 against Oral Roberts, then hit the road for matches at Hilton Head, S.C. The women play their next three matches in Des Moines, three more after that in Kansas City, then join the men’s team in South Carolina mid March.
The men’s team fell to North Dakota 5-2 on Friday at home in their first match in two weeks. The Mavs No. 1 starter, Connor Tieszen, was the only victorious player in singles, winning 6-4, 6-7, 10-6 against Ryan McGuigan.
“On paper I don’t know who’s supposed to win this match,” head men’s and women’s coach Mike Saniuk said. “It’s a coin flip, and they were better that day. We play them again a couple weeks from now; maybe those close matches go in our favor.”
In doubles, UNO scored the point when the pairings of Matt Frost and Connor Larson won 8-3, and Eric McKnight and Erik Anderson won 8-6. Despite starting the day off successful in doubles, UNO was outplayed in singles, losing five out of six.
Tieszen’s win came in three sets while all the other UNO players, Eric McKnight, Connor Larson, Carlos Ramos Salazar, Matt Frost and Erik Anderson lost in straight sets.
Ramos Salazar and Frost were the most competitive, dropping their matches both at 6-4, 6-4.
“I thought we had a lot of momentum taking the doubles point, things were looking good,” Saniuk said. “They (North Dakota) stepped up their game, and our guys did not step up their game. It’s pretty plain and simple.”
Earlier in the week, the women’s team fell 6-1 against Arkansas-Little Rock, Wednesday afternoon. Similar to the men, Alex Tran was the only player victorious in singles, winning 5-7, 6-3, 10-4 against UALR’s Yana Kakovkina.
“Arkansas-Little Rock, they’re a really good team, they’re pretty close to being fully funded. That’s a match we should drop,” Saniuk said. “We always look to be competitive. [We’re] disappointed we didn’t take the doubles point against them, but singles they’re just one or two steps above us as players go.”
The other five singles players won just 13 games in their five matches, and all five were beaten in straight sets. Rachel Pierson and Molly Matricardi were the only Mavs not to drop a set at love. Matricardi was beaten in the No. 2 singles sot 6-1, 6-3 while Pierson fell in the No. 6 spot 6-1, 6-1.
In doubles, Omaha lost two of three, surrendering the doubles point to the Trojans. Arkansas-Little Rock took the No. 1 and No. 3 positions 8-5 and 8-3, respectively.
UNO was leading with Molly Matricardi and Tiffany Hottman 7-4 in the No. 2 spot, but doubles action was called before the pair could finish.
“The girls, their effort, and as far as practicing and preparing for the match, it was as good as it’s always been,” Saniuk said. “We just got beat by a significantly better team on the day.”
The women play next against Central Arkansas next in Des Moines, a team with a 4-6 record on the season. While in Iowa, UNO will also have matches against Northern Illionis and Drake.
Twelve days later the ladies get Western Illinois, Fort Wayne and UMKC in Kansas City. The women’s team is on the road for 12 of their next 13 matchups.
After their match with Oral Roberts, the men’s team is off until the trip to South Carolina. Although both teams will be in Hilton Head together during spring break in a much warmer climate, Saniuk said he will change little about their day-to-day activities.
“Instead of running indoors, we’ll be running on the beach; instead of practicing on indoor courts, we’ll be practicing on outdoor courts,” Saniuk said. “Some things are different, but we don’t change a whole lot. Our mindset will remain on tennis and getting our academics done while we’re away.