Ball State Men’s Tennis (3-2) ended a two-match losing streak on Friday, defeating Butler (5-5) 5-2 in what turned out to be an incredible back-and-forth match.
“We talked all week about doing the little things to prepare,” head coach Bill Richards said. We have a lot of respect for Butler. We knew it was a match that could go either way and whoever came through in tough, close situations and won big points, would come out on top.”
After losses on the road to Indiana and Michigan State, Richards and the coaching staff felt like the doubles lineup needed a change to try and jumpstart the team in these matches.
And it paid off in a big way for the Cardinals.
After Ball State split the second and third doubles matches, it was up to second-year Nathaniel Webster and fourth-year Vince Orlando, who were each playing their first match in the number one doubles slot.
The tandem found themselves down 1-4 but broke serve twice to give themselves a 5-4 advantage.
In the final service game, Orlando hit back-to-back aces to close out the match and win the doubles point.
“We hadn’t been playing as well as I thought we should in doubles, so we thought it was time to experiment a little bit. And, fortunately, the decisions that were made went our way today,” Richards said.
Orlando carried that momentum into a 6-4, 6-4 win in second singles. Right behind him was first-year Jacks Lancaster with a 6-4, 6-2 win in six singles and third-year Sajin Smith clinched the match with a 7-5, 6-4 win in the fourth slot.
This is already the second time this year that Smith has clinched a match for the Cardinals. Coming into this year, he hadn’t played a competitive match in 18 months. The mental side of it has been huge for him in closing out these matches.
“I’ve been out for a year and a half. I’m really big on trying to be mentally positive with myself,” Smith said. “I’ve been lucky enough to win some big matches here, and help my team win and be successful.”
Ball State has a good opportunity in front of them now, as they head to Cleveland State for a doubleheader against the Vikings and Niagara University on Sunday. They started the weekend with a .500 record, and in a matter of three days, could be three games above it.
“We’ll enjoy it tonight, but Cleveland State is going to be a 50-50, hard-fought match, and Niagara is a good team too.”
First serve is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. for the Cleveland State match, and 2 p.m. for the match versus Niagara.
Contact Caleb Zuver with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zuves35.