Engel, NIU mindfully shoot down Redbirds

By Hyun Moon

Marty Engel is no ordinary freshman.

Engel is a mental giant, who concentrates only on the task at hand. That task yesterday was Illinois State’s No. 1 player Bennie Van Zyl of South Africa, whom Engel took care of 6-2, 6-3 as NIU, now 8-13, discarded the Redbirds 5-2 at the West Campus courts.

“Marty’s strength is his mind,” Huskie coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “He’s very focused.”

Engel had Van Zyl going out of his mind, swearing, throwing his racket … ala, John McEnroe.

Engel never gave Van Zyl an easy point, chasing down shot after shot.

“I take pride in my speed. I drive my teammates nuts, too,” Engel gloated.

After getting to the ball, Engel coils like a rattlesnake and strikes with deadly intentions as he connected on 16 winners in the match.

But the match wasn’t all downhill for the freshman phenom. Engel, who improved his record to 17-14 in singles, jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set when he and Van Zyl engaged in a suspense-filled eight deuce game, which Van Zyl won. Van Zyl went on to win two more games to close to 4-3.

“I think I felt too comfortable with the lead,” Engel said. “I knew I was up two breaks, so I began to relax.”

He didn’t get worried, he got mad. “You let him right back into it,” Engel scolded himself after being broken in the sixth game.

At 4-3, Engel turned the momentum with one of his seven service winners.

“My serve is becoming a weapon,” Engel said. “But I was just spinning it in today. I felt he would chip and come in on my second serves so I had to get my first serves in.”

Engel didn’t double fault and had only seven faults in 42 tries.

Engel’s win started a tidal wave of Huskie wins. At No. 2, Steve Senter pounded ISU’s John Brown 6-3, 7-5. NIU’s No. 3 player Dustin Dobrin overcame a slow start and scored a 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory.

David Edelman, a member of NIU’s “Fab Three” along with Engel and Matt Green, won in straight sets 6-1, 6-4.

Green wasn’t as fabulous, losing 6-3, 6-3. Andy Schoberlein’s loss at No. 5 had the Huskies up 4-2 after singles.

But Green teamed up with Senter at No. 1 doubles to clinch the win for the Huskie, beating Derek Heynis and Paul Smith 6-1, 6-2.

Senter, who played No. 1 doubles with Erik Andersch last year, said he and Green are improving.

“Erik is the best doubles player I have ever seen,” Senter said. “But among the team right now, Matt is the closest. He has a great serve and cuts the ball off aggressively, which is what Erik did.”

With the Fab Three, the future is looking up for the Huskies. Said Engel, “I think we can be one of the top teams in the country like Ball State by our junior year.”