Ball State senior Lucas Andersen had his hands full in the first set in the top flight of the Ball State men's tennis 7-0 win over Eastern Illinois Jan. 22.

He led 6-5, but struggled to break the strong serve of Eastern Illinois freshman Freddie O'Brien, a tall lefty from Surrey, England.

But, finally, Andersen worked his way to set point on O'Brien's serve. He and O'Brien traded shots until O'Brien, who favored a powerful shot with topspin, switched up his game with a drop shot that forced Andersen to run up from the baseline. He reached the ball and angled his shot to the left corner with some backspin to keep it low.

Results vs. Eastern Illinois

Singles

1. Lucas Andersen (Ball State) def. Freddie O'Brien (Eastern Illinois) 7-5, 6-1
2. Andrew Stutz (Ball State) def. Jared Woodson (Eastern Illinois) 6-1, 6-1
3. Nemanja Guzina (Ball State) def. Grant Reiman (Eastern Illinois) 6-2, 4-6, 1-0
4. Marko Guzina (Ball State) def. Gage Kingsmith (Eastern Illinois) 6-0, 6-2
5. Conner Andersen (Ball State) def. Marko Janjusic (Eastern Illinois) 6-3, 6-3
6. Pat Downs (Ball State) def. Trent Reiman(Eastern Illinois) 6-0, 6-1

Doubles

1. Lucas Andersen/Andrew Stutz (Ball State) def. Freddie O'Brien/Gage Kingsmith (Eastern Illinois) 6-2
2. Nemanja Guzina/Conner Andersen (Ball State) def. Grant Reiman/Trent Reiman (Eastern Illinois) 6-2
3. Matt Helm/ Tom Carney (Ball State) def. Jared Woodson/Freddie Ammer (Eastern Illinois) 6-1

O'Brien responded with a hard shot, but it hit the net. Andersen won the set, 7-5, before winning the second 6-1.

"It was the game plan coming in, I just started to execute better in the second set," Andersen said. "I mean, a guy like that who hits the ball so hard, if you can get the ball below the net and make him hit the ball up and come back over the net, he's more prone to errors."

All six Cardinal singles players, and all three doubles teams, won their match-ups against the Panthers, marking the seventh consecutive season Ball State has beaten Eastern Illinois.

"Once you feel that momentum change, that's when you really want to put on the gas pedal and really let him know that you're in charge," Andersen said. "Don't let him see the light, so to speak."

Head coach Bill Richards said the Cardinals were focused after losing their first two matches against Notre Dame and Purdue.

"When you play a team, on paper, that you know you're supposed to beat, and a team you've always beaten in the past, there can be a tendency to not push yourself as hard and try to slide through," Richards said. "I think everyone was very motivated to play well and get an individual win and a team win after you play a couple matches that you lose against better teams."

Ball State lost 7-0 to Notre Dame Friday and 5-2 to Purdue Saturday. Richards said the goal of playing teams from major conferences—Notre Dame plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Purdue plays in the Big Ten—is to learn.

"You always want to win, and you're always disappointed when you lose," Richards said. "But we knew we were playing teams that are very strong and you kind of approach those matches more from an individual standpoint."

Andersen, for example, had strong performances in his singles matches against ranked opponents. Against Notre Dame, he was matched up with No. 27 Josh Hagar and won the first set 6-4 before dropping the second set on a tiebreaker and narrowly dropping the third 7-5. Andersen bounced back well, though, beating No. 49 Gergely Madarasz of Purdue the next day 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).

Andersen said he's ready for more tough competition, though, as Ball State's next two matches are against Big Ten opponents. The Cardinals play at Indiana Jan. 27 before hosting Michigan State Feb. 4.

"I think that's a good way to hit the ground running for the year," Andersen said. "Kind of a good measuring stick to see where we start and then go from here."