Senior Lucas Andersen wins 7-5, 6-1 against No. 1 Eastern Illinois freshman Freddie O'Brien during the match at Muncie's Northwest YMCA on Jan. 22. Grace Ramey, DN File
Ball State men's tennis opens fall portion of season
Ball State men’s tennis will begin its season this weekend at the Purdue Invitational. The Cardinals have previously started the season at the Marquette Invitational, but chose not to this season, as it became an individual tournament.
“We could have gotten two players in, but we didn’t think it was practical,” said head coach Bill Richards. “I just wanted to stay home and practice.”
The reason why Richards wants to go to Purdue instead of Marquette is because of the convenience.
“[Purdue] is a strong tournament in terms of the quality of the players,” Richards said. “We also don’t have to travel far.”
Richards also plans to direct his focus on the ITA Regionals and the Mid-American Conference Indoor Championship. Richards plans to use the MAC Indoor Championship as a way to see how the team stacks up against other teams in the conference.
PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS SEASON
A set of players to watch this season will be the five new freshmen added to the roster. These freshmen include Khamasi Muhiga and Alec Robillard, who are both from Muncie, Bryce Bonin (Crown Point), Chris Adams (Port Hurion, Michigan) and Thibault Negri, who is from Belgium.
Richards said this season is not a rebuilding year, but a transitional year.
“I think there is a lot of potential in this team,” Richards said.
Senior Jon Jirus is another player to keep an eye on. Last season, Jirus won 12 matches. For this season, Jirus has prepared himself by playing tennis over the summer, seeing the trainer and having the right mindset. After a productive summer, Jirus plans to take his performance to a certain level.
“With tennis, there is a level of your game is at a point where you want it to be or over,” Jirus said.
Another player to watch for this season is junior Conner Andersen. Andersen saw most of his action at the sixth flight, going 7-3.
Andersen, along with other junior teammates, will be looked upon for leadership.
“We have a lot of juniors, so that’s probably going to be the nucleus of our leadership,” said Richards.
Last season, the Cardinals had four seniors to lead the team. Richards said he is also looking towards Jirus to add some depth to the team's leadership role.
“[Jirus] played quite a bit his freshman year and didn't really make our lineup these past two years,” Richards said. “I’m sure, as a senior, he hopes he can step up and have a really strong year.”
SPRING SEASON MATCHES TO WATCH FOR
Aside from the fall season, the Cardinals will have some key matches in the spring. On Jan. 15, the team will travel to Bloomington to face Indiana University. The Cardinals will then face UNLV and Montana in a tournament in Las Vegas March 7-8. However, Richards wants his team to put the majority of its focus on MAC opponents.
“Those MAC matches are definitely the most important matches,” Richards said. “These other matches are meant to prepare for the important MAC matches."
Ball State will open its fall season at the Purdue Invitational on Sept. 15-17.