At the halfway point in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) season, Ball State men’s tennis (10-7, 2-3 MAC) is left with some work to do if they want to make the postseason conference tournament.
After Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Buffalo Bulls (6-6, 2-3 MAC), the Cardinals are tied with Buffalo for the fourth and final spot in the conference tournament.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match. We’re kind of in similar situations, scraping for a spot in the tournament,” head coach Bill Richards said. “They [Buffalo] had their way to the wall after losing on Friday and they just did a better job.”
The start of the match was promising, though, as Ball State claimed the doubles point rather quickly. It took just 23 minutes for fifth-year Danilo Kovacevic and second-year Nathaniel Webster to win at first doubles, while fourth-years Vince Orlando and Eli Herran took care of court two with a 6-3 win.
Richards said that the doubles point can be random, but is happy with how his team performed in recent matches.
“We’ve made some improvements. It’s kind of hard to really evaluate those doubles points because it's a six-game set and no-ad scoring. All you can do is try to play well, and hope you get lucky,” he said. “We took care of business fairly routinely in both matches this weekend.”
In singles, Ball State was not able to put together any sort of consistency. First-year Jacks Lancaster lost a close first set in a tiebreak, and couldn’t recover in the second set. He lost 7-6 (7-4), 6-0. It was somewhat of the opposite for Kovacevic, as he wasn’t close in the first set, but lost his second set in a tiebreak.
Third-year Sajin Smith lost 6-2, 2-6, 6-1. Webster forced a third set as well but lost it 6-0.
Richards called some of these sets that aren’t particularly close in a three-set match “dead sets.” He said that was the difference today in the singles matches.
“Every match that we lost, we had a really bad set. Webster in the third, Danilo in the first, Sajin in the third and Jacks in the second. That was pretty much the difference,” Richards said.
The Cardinals did manage to get two singles wins, as Herran won in three sets and Orlando won his three-hour match by a score of 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 7-6 (11-9).
Ball State will face off against the Bulls again on Apil 16th in the last match of the regular season. They can take a close loss like this into that matchup, but before that, they have a tough schedule to finish the year.
“We’re not where we hoped to be, but there’s still five matches to go [in conference],” Richards said. “You just gotta stay positive and keep working, but there’s no margin for error now.”
The Cardinals will hit the road again Friday, as they will take on the Toledo Rockets, beginning at 1 p.m.