Netmen sweep foes despite fighting wind

By Jeff Kirik

Being a hospitable host is not one of the NIU men’s tennis team’s strong points.

The Huskie netmen won three dual meets over the weekend as they hit their home courts for the first time in the spring season. NIU opened the weekend by beating Illinois-Chicago 5-1 Saturday. Later that day the Huskies defeated Austin Peay 7-2. On Sunday, the team finished off the undefeated home debut with a 7-2 win over Wisconsin-Stout. The trio of wins moves the NIU dual-meet record to 19-10.

Gusting winds controlled play both days as every player struggled to adjust to the poor weather conditions. Coach Carl Neufeld explained how the wind affects the players.

“It negates the skill factor. You can’t hit the touch shot you normally hit,” he said. “It’s like a street fight when it’s this windy, because it’s more desire and mental toughness than it is ability. You have to be psychologically ready to adjust.”

“It was kind of hard in the beginning,” said Huskie No. 3 singles player Emil Bijleveld. “You can’t play your own game. That’s the first time we’ve played in this kind of wind. We really had to adjust.”

Neufeld said his No. 1 singles player Steve Wiere is one of those who had trouble adjusting on Saturday. Wiere, who is from California, lost 6-3, 6-2 to Austin Peay’s Walter Dolhare.

“His loss was totally psychological. He’s never had to deal with wind before,” said Neufeld, noting that tennis matches are often cancelled in California because of wind. “Steve did a lot better today (Sunday). He was down 3-0 before he knew it. But he toughened up and came back to win.”

Bijleveld said his teammates were more at ease playing at home.

“It was a little more relaxing,” he said. “It’s nice having the homecourt advantage and getting some local support. Being on the road gets you really tired. Here you can just relax.”

Going into the weekend, Neufeld said he would need strong performances from the middle and bottom of his lineup. Neufeld got what he desired in all three of the meets as his lower ranked players piled up the wins.

Against Austin Peay, singles players two through six gathered wins for the Huskies, but Neufeld admitted it was not easy.

“It was 7-2, but it was a lot closer than the score looks,” he said. “If we would have lost a couple of crucial points, they could have won 7-2.”

Six of the matches in that meet went three sets, and four of those six went to a tie breaker as NIU picked up the win.

In the win over Illinois-Chicago, Neufeld had a chance to experiment with the lower part of his lineup. Gary Hattendorf, who usually competes in the sixth or seventh singles slot, earned the praise of Neufeld by defeating UIC’s No. 1 singles player in three sets.

NIU also received solid play up and down the lineup against Wisconsin-Stout, which is ranked 10th in the nation in Division III. Wiere, Bijleveld, Dan Bowers, Mike Hill and Hattendorf all won their singles matches as NIU picked up the win.