After a 12-day layoff leading into Wednesday’s match with Chicago State (0-5, 0-0 WAC), head coach Bill Richards said he was a little concerned.
That concern ended up being all for naught, however, as the Cardinals (6-1, 0-0 MAC) picked up a clean sweep over the Cougars to win their sixth straight match and improve to 6-1 overall.
“We really respected the talent level of Chicago State because they have a lot of international players and a very talented group,” Richards said. “But we felt we were ready to play and had a good focus to compete very well throughout the match.”
Despite having early-season troubles in doubles play, the Cardinals found their rhythm. Ball State won its second straight doubles point, thanks to 6-1 and 6-3 victories at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles from juniors Thibault de Negri and Danilo Kovacevic and the team of senior Bryce Bonin and sophomore Eli Herran.
“For the most part, both teams were in control throughout,” Richards said. “[de Negri and Kovacevic] really dominated while [Herran and Bonin] got up early, and Chicago State started to come back but were able to work through a couple tough games when they needed to right the ship.”
Ball State continued its success in singles, when four of its players won their matches in straight sets.
“Our approach to the match was just making sure that we were ready to play and focus and not expect it to be easy,” Richards said. “I thought that was the best thing about our singles performances today. I thought everyone got off to a good start and controlled their matches from start to finish.”
The two players who didn’t win in straight sets, Herran (who won at No. 6 singles by default) and senior Chris Adams (who won 10-8 in a third-set super tiebreaker), won their fifth singles match each and have yet to lose in singles this season.
“[Adams] has been a constant force for us throughout his whole career, and he's played exceptionally well this year,” Richards said. “And [Herran] has been outstanding, very dependable and has played at a very solid level. Early in the season so far, he's just done a great job.”
Chicago State only had six players available to travel to Muncie this week after a few players were placed in quarantine. After Herran’s singles opponent played a match in doubles, it was determined he couldn’t compete due to injury, resulting in the default win for Herran.
“Unfortunately, they didn't have anyone else to play, and you always hate to see that happen,” Richards said. “It was just unfortunate because everybody wants to play.”
Ball State has never lost to the Cougars in eight meetings between the two programs. Next up, the Cardinals will play another team they’ve never lost against in IUPUI Feb. 26 and March 1 — having won all 13 matches from 2007-19.
“We're going to have to play our very best tennis,” Richards said. “They just came off a huge upset win over SMU last Saturday. We have beaten them every year but every single match is just a battle.”