Feb. 18, 2011
DANVILLE, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's tennis team got back on track this afternoon as they defeated Eastern Illinois, 6-1, at the Danville Tennis Center.
Despite not knowing about the dual meet until less than 24 hours before hitting the courts in Danville due to a change in the schedule, the Huskies proved to be unphased by the matter.
"Even though it was probably a coaching error with the schedule, I think we did a good job not letting our guys get too wrapped up in the issue," said NIU head coach Patrick Fisher. "We played pretty well. I don't think we played our best, but we played good enough to win. I think we took care of business like we should, but we'll have to play much better tomorrow. The guys are excited to play a very good Northwestern team."
The Huskies (3-5) led off the afternoon taking two of three doubles matches to win the doubles point for the first time since the season opener at Dayton on Jan. 22. Wins came from the Ukranian tandem of Maksym Bartiuk and Maksym Lagutin in the No. 1 flight, an 8-4 victory over Jamie Firth and Matyas Hilgert, while the other came in the third flight as the freshmen pairing of Axel Lagerlof and Bryant Poggensee-Wei defeated Kevin Bauman and Warren Race, 8-4.
"We're really young and we lack experience at doubles and that's something we need to get better at, but I think today was a step in the right direction for that," Fisher added.
In singles play, NIU proved their dominance over EIU as they won five of six matches, four of which were in straight sets. Once again, Fisher decided to shake up his order at the top, a decision that proved fruitful on this day. At No. 1 singles, Bartiuk picked up his fourth win of the season with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Michael Sperry. Lagerlof nabbed his team-leading fifth win with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 win over Race in the second flight. Like Bartiuk, junior Roman Turtygin got his fourth win of the season as he won a tight two-setter against Hilgert, 6-4, 7-6.
"I think we're finding out with our team that at the top, any one of those guys can play up there," Fisher said. "They're very good players playing at those spots. Axel has shown that he can handle playing that high. I don't know if he'll be playing at No. 2 tomorrow, but he can play anywhere from one to three...It gives us some options."
Despite a slow start to the season, Lagutin netted his third win in his last four matches, knocking off Firth, 6-2, 6-1 in the fourth flight. Troy University transfer, Tyler Stephens added the final point to the Huskies' total at No. 6 as he earned his first career singles victory in a dual meet. It didn't come easy as the sophomore fell behind, dropping the first set, 3-6, before flipping the score in the second, 6-3. Stephens capped off the come-from-behind win, taking the tiebreaker, 10-8.
"I think this gives us some confidence going into Northwestern" Fisher said. "We still have a long way to go and I don't think we're playing our best as a team, but right now I think we're playing as good as we can for this time of year."
NIU travels to Evanston, Ill., tomorrow for an 11 a.m. showdown with the No. 69 Northwestern Wildcats at the Combe Tennis Center.