By Dalton Ray–
Men’s tennis has extended its winning streak to ten straight matches. This past week, the Cards took out four more opponents. Wins over Toledo, Indiana, Green Bay and IUPUI improved Louisville’s record to 12-2.
The Wednesday night match against Indiana was another chapter in the cross-river rivalry. Indiana was also the highest ranked opponent of the week, sitting at number 36.
“Indiana is our biggest rival. It’s comparable to Louisville and Kentucky in football and basketball. We always have a trip with them, so we played them a lot. It always gets personal on the court. There are some strange calls, and it always has a heated atmosphere. So many people were watching today. They were loud, engaging, and it was a great moment and memory,” Stephen Stiefelmeyer said.
Coach Rex Ecarma echoed Stiefelmeyer’s thoughts.
“Every time we play them it’s so hard because no one wants to lose. Their guys are very physical, fit guys, and with us being so close together, it’s an important win. They come from a great conference, and there’s a lot of mutual respect. We always travel with them to the same tournaments. We usually play in a fall tournament then in a preseason tournament and again in the regular season. They know our players so well; they know our style and we know there’s so it’s a real chess match out there.”
Gornet and Brown teamed up again in doubles aganst the IU pair of Chris Essick and Stefan Lugonjic and won 6-1. Indiana’s Manji Raheel and Sven Lalic held off Louisville’s Wagner and Simich 6-2, so the doubles point came down to the battle on court one.
Damrongsri and Stiefelmeyer faced off against Sam Monette and Daniel Bednarczyk and won a close game, 7-6.
After losing the doubles point, the number 36 team in the country would have to win four of the six singles matches on the road. Wagner defeated Bednarcyzk 6-3, 6-3 and Indiana’s uphill battle got much harder. Stiefelmeyer would face Monette again after just seeing each other on the same court in doubles.
The senior from Vienna, Austria made Monette fight for every point in the first set, and Stiefelmeyer ended up winning the first set 7-6 (10-8). Monette simply ran out of gas and couldn’t hang with the nation’s number five-ranked player as he dropped the second set 0-6.
The former St. X grad Gornet defeated Raheel 6-2, 6-2, and the Cards had sealed the match win. Luis Elizondo beat Lugonjic 6-3, 7-5 and gave U of L a 5-0 win. Simich and Lippens both had their matches called early.
The winning streak sits at ten now for Louisville, and Ecarma compared it to dominoes.
“I put a bunch of dominoes with our matches on them and I told them if we can get the first one, then the second one, and the third we can just start to knock all those dominoes down. We’re just trying to build a lot of momentum and see how well we can play as a team the guys are really clicking right now.”
Ecarma’s coaching has helped his team get to where they are at now, but the road ahead won’t be easy for the Cards.
“We have to take it one match at a time because then you start to put pressure on yourself. When you look at the big picture, you lose your enjoyment, and I really want the guys to savor the moment. We’ve got six graduating seniors; a lot of tennis teams only have eight players on it period. We may be graduating the biggest senior class, and I really want to savor the moment as well.”
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal