Men’s tennis splits season-opening meets in Iowa

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James Krause

DeKALB — The men’s tennis team opened its spring season by splitting a pair of meets in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend, losing to the Drake Bulldogs 4-3 Saturday and winning against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 5-2 Sunday.

Redshirt senior Eric Marbach saw plenty of action, playing a total of 88 games over four winning matches, including a pair of doubles set wins with redshirt sophomore Kristopher Ortega.

Saturday: Drake University

NIU dropped the season-opening meet to Drake University 4-3.

Marbach grabbed the Huskies’ first win of the meet in a marathon of a match over Drake junior Barny Thorold 6-7 (10-7 tiebreaker), 7-5 and 10-7.

First-years Mikko Malinen and David Pata, from Sweden and Romania respectively, picked up their first career collegiate wins in singles competition.

The teams split singles matches three each, and it came down to the doubles point to decide the winner.

Marbach and Ortega won the opening doubles set 7-6 against the 27th-ranked duo in the country Thorold and Vinny Gillespie.

NIU would drop the final two sets of the doubles point by a combined 12-5, losing its first contest of the year.

Head Coach Patrick Fisher said the loss was disappointing against one of the best tennis programs in the nation.

“We had so many chances to capitalize and we didn’t; little details got us today,” Fisher said, according to a Jan. 19 news release. “Drake is a top-30 program and, while most think playing at 85 percent is great, we won’t beat teams of this caliber; we need to be 100 percent relentless from start to finish.”

Sunday: Tennessee Tech

The Huskies bounced back after a narrow loss to Drake by picking up their first win of the season Saturday against Tennessee Tech.

After splitting the first four matches of singles action, sophomore Victor Spolidorio redeemed his loss Saturday by giving NIU the points lead with a win 6-4 and 7-6 over TTU sophomore Gonzalo Garcia.

Another win by Malinen in three sets secured the points victory for NIU, but the Huskies looked to pick up their first doubles points of the year behind Malinen and Spolidorio in the final set.

After losing Saturday, the duo picked up the point for NIU with a 7-6 win over Garcia and TTU freshman Rafael Tosetto.

The Huskies would go on to take the meet 5-2 and secured their first victory of the new season.

With a 1-1 record, NIU will travel for a weekend of matches with starting with a trip to Omaha Friday for a matchup with Omaha University and Saint Louis Saturday. The team will also travel to Madison, Wisconsin Sunday to face the Wisconsin Badgers.