Men’s tennis faces stern test in first round of MAC Championships



By Thomas Hiley III

The men’s tennis team’s (15-8, 3-2 MAC) MAC conference play came to a close last weekend with the win over Buffalo (9-9, 3-2 MAC) 4-3. Next for the Huskies will be the MAC Championship to be played in DeKalb.

Their first opponent will be the Ball State Cardinals (16-7, 5-0 MAC), who they lost to earlier in the season, 7-0.

The teams that are seeded are the Cardinals at No. 1, Western Michigan Broncos at No. 2, Buffalo at No. 3 and the Huskies at No. 4. Out of all the teams playing, the only team the Huskies have defeated is Buffalo.

The Cardinals will provide a difficult matchup for the Huskies because they didn’t score a single point last time they faced each other. This time around head coach Patrick Fisher believes the result can go in NIU’s favor.

“We’re focusing on the things that we do well,” Fisher said. “Last time they beat us in every part of the game, but I feel we’re better than where we were three week ago, and we’ve [got] a better shot at winning.”

In the Huskies’ past two conference games they were able to defeat the Toledo Rockets (19-10, 1-4 MAC) 6-1, and their most recent victory comes from Buffalo. In those victories, NIU was able to win nine of its 12 singles matches with most coming from the bottom part of the lineup.

“Toledo we lost in doubles but won in singles,” Fisher said. “Some of our top guys struggled against Buffalo, but [it was] nice to see that our bottom line up stepped up.”

With the past two wins the Huskies feel more confident when they head to face the Cardinals, all because of the four, five and six spots stepping their game up.

“Positive to see [all six singles spots playing as a whole] going into the tournament,” Fisher said.

This is a win-or-go-home situation for NIU. If the Huskies lose this weekend their season is over. They are facing a tough Cardinals lineup with the team having a 22-8 record for singles and a 10-3 record for doubles in the MAC.

Fisher said even with the team losing in the last matchup it won’t stop NIU from playing hard.

“We don’t have a different mindset if [our opponent is] superior to us or we’re better than them,” Fisher said. “Our mindset going into any match is to win.”