By Dalton Ray–
Louisville’s men’s tennis team defeated Illinois State and Tennessee Tech to bring their record to 11-11 on the year. In the first game, U of L downed the Redbirds 5-2. In the evening, Louisville won 4-3 against the Golden Eagles.
Three freshmen Cardinals took home victories in the match against Illinois State. George Hedley and Carlos Longhi Neto won in two sets while Chris Kougoucheff needed three sets. Senior Jeffery Brown won in two sets giving U of L their fifth point. Louisville handled the victory quickly as they won the doubles point then the first three singles courts.
Tennessee Tech didn’t go down as easily in the evening match. After Brown and Kougoucheff won the first court in doubles, Tech won on court two. The doubles point came down to a pair of freshmen. Hedley and Brandon Lancaster outlasted Jorge Alfonso and Guile Nicloas 7-5 giving U of L the advantage.
“It’s really good to start seeing these freshman win close matches for us,” coach Rex Ecarma said. “At this point of the season freshman are starting to become sophomores for us because they’ve played so much.”
Louisville continued to win in singles. Brown defeated Alberto Estban 6-4, 6-4 and Sean Donahue beat Alfonso 6-4, 6-3. With three courts remaining Louisville needed one win to clinch the match. The Golden Eagles weren’t going down without a fight as they won the next two courts making it 3-3. On court two, Hedley faced off against senior Alex Arovin, with the winner taking the match.
The match between Hedley and Arovin lasted just under two and a half hours and Hedley would prevail 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (9-7). After Arovin won three straights in the third set, Hedley regained momentum and would come back to win. Fatigue started setting in as both athletes played for more than three hours straight.
“I was cramping throughout the whole third set but I somehow I was able to pull it out. By the third set he was making me run back and forth and the fatigue really started to set in,” Heldey said. “It’s just great to clinch in both singles and doubles, this will really help our confidence.”
Ecarma was very proud to see Hedley pull out the victory.
“Arovin defeated King Sebastian (Stiefelmeyer) last year, he was ranked top five in the nation at the time. So to see Georgey grind out that win against that senior while cramping is just awesome for him and us,” Ecarma said.
In one of the longest matches of the year, the Cardinals were able to get the victory. Ecarma said his team had a gutsy performance to win the double-header.
“I thought if we didn’t play well then we could lose both, especially (Tennessee) Tech. They were coming in with a lot of confidence,” he said. “We really needed to win a close match like we did today because there’s been times in the year we’ve been so close but just haven’t pulled it out. To this point we’ve let some conference games slip through our hands and I’m hoping a experience like this really sets us up for success down the road.”
The Cardinals have eight matches remaining, with Duke next. The Blue Devils will host U of L as Louisville looks to win their first conference game. Ecarma’s squad will be back at home on April 3 in a double header against North Carolina State and Southern Illinois.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal