After losing two consecutive road games against 7th-ranked UCLA and 27th-ranked Pepperdine, the UC Irvine Men’s Tennis team fell short of yet another victory to the 26th-ranked Clemson Tigers on Jan. 25 at the Anteater Tennis Stadium.
Despite the loss, the Anteaters, now 0-3 overall, still have the confidence of their coach.
‘I’m not worried,’ said Head Coach Steve Clark. ‘We just need to keep working on being more efficient at the net and we need to work on attitude for sure.’
The match began with three doubles teams playing one eight-game pro-set in which the team winning two of the three doubles matches takes one point into the singles round. Ranked sixth in the nation for doubles, senior captain Jon Endrikat and junior Brian Morton defeated Clemson’s 17th-ranked team with a match score of 8-5.
Though the Tigers forced the pair to commit several unforced errors throughout the match, they were no competition for UCI’s dynamic duo. Endrikat’s nearly perfect service game and Morton’s powerful volley down the sideline solidified the win.
The number two doubles team, however, did not fare as well. Senior Zoran Korac and junior Ryusuke Kashiwabara led most of the way before giving up their lead late in the match. As the match neared its end, things looked hopeful for the Anteaters with Kashiwabara forcing the Tigers to commit three consecutive unforced errors and sealing set point with an unreturnable volley down the middle. Unfortunately, the Tigers kept their composure, defeating Korac and Kashiwabara in a seven-point tie break game. The final score was 9-8 (7-4).
Going into the singles matches, the Tigers had a one-point advantage over the Anteaters due to the loss suffered by UCI’s number two and three doubles. By this time, it was clear that tensions were running high. The Anteaters desperately needed some wins.
Giving the Anteaters some life, senior Renouk Wijemanne defeated the Tigers in two straight sets 6-4, 6-2 for the number five singles game. Sophomore Peter Surapol defeated his opponent in an exciting three-game match-up as the number six singles 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Unfortunately, Morton, playing number four singles, could not hold fort to opponent John Boetsch, who came back after losing the first set. Both the number two and three singles matches resulted in defeat as well.
On a brighter note, Endrikat had a big win over 31st-ranked Nathan Thompson in two straight sets 7-5, 6-2.
When asked about his performance against the higher ranking opponent, Endrikat said, ‘He has a game I like to play against but today was just a pretty solid day.’
Endrikat, being down three sets early in the match, came back to tie the game at 3-3 when Clark sat down with him on the sideline to give him a pep talk. From that point on, Endrikat’s intensity and level of play heightened and it proved to be too much for the Tigers’ star player.
Though the Anteaters lost to the Tigers (4-3) and have yet to win a conference game, their spirits and expectations still run high as both Clark and Endrikat are hopeful to win the Big West Conference.
The next home game will be against Northern Arizona on Feb. 14 at the Anteater Tennis Stadium.
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