The Indiana men’s tennis team traveled to Auburn, Alabama, to take on the No. 25 Auburn University Tigers for its second road match of the season Monday.
The conditions for the match against the Tigers were nothing short of unusual for the Hoosiers. The majority of Auburn’s matches are played outdoors as opposed to the Hoosiers’, who had yet to play an outdoor match this season. However, rain stopped the doubles matches, forcing the teams to finish competition indoors.
Despite the abnormal circumstances, Indiana was ready to go from the outset. Doubles play got off to a tight start, as the pairings from both sides were neck and neck in all three matches. Auburn ultimately took home the doubles point after securing wins at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots.
Indiana junior Luka Vukovic and sophomore Michael Andre fell short against the Auburn pairing of freshman Will Nolan and sophomore Maxwell Giddens by a score of 6-3 in the No. 3 match. Indiana seniors Carson Haskins and Vikash Singh couldn’t hold off Auburn senior Tad Maclean and junior Finn Murgett and lost 4-6 at the No. 1 spot. Indiana sophomore Ilya Tiraspolsky and senior Patrick Fletchall trailed 5-6 at No. 2 at the moment the Tigers grabbed the doubles point, and their match was ruled as unfinished.
In addition to obtaining a team ranking of No. 25 from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, three Auburn players hold spots in the top-100. Maclean is ranked No. 45 in the country, junior Tyler Stice is No. 87 and junior Jan Galka just made the cut at No. 100.
The only other time this season Indiana has faced ranked opponents in singles matches came in a 0-4 loss to Middle Tennessee State University on Feb. 12. The Blue Raiders earned wins at the No. 1, 2 and 4 positions, with Fletchall winning the Hoosiers’ lone set of the match against a top-100 player.
Monday’s match went differently for Indiana, however. Although the Hoosiers ended every singles match in the loss column, they made their matches against the Tigers’ singles powerhouses competitive.
Despite losing his first singles set 1-6, Haskins climbed back into his match against Stice to force a tiebreaker after winning the second set 6-4. the no. 1 singles tiebreaker, which was one of three on the day, went in favor of Stice 10-5.
Fletchall, who played at the No. 2 singles spot against Galka, also lost his first set 1-6. The second set was much tighter, however, as the Indiana senior fell 5-7 after a strong effort.
Vukovic was faced with arguably the toughest assignment of all Hoosier players, having to play against the highest nationally-ranked Tiger, Maclean, at the No. 3 singles position. The first set ended in a score of 7-5, going in Vukovic’s favor. Maclean pulled back within reach with a 6-3 win in the second set and took control in the tiebreaker 10-4 to win the match.
the no. 4 and 5 singles matches yielded the quickest finishes, which gave the Tigers an early 3-0 lead the Hoosiers could not bounce back from. Tiraspolsky loses 0-6, 1-6, to Murgett. Nolan defeated Singh 6-3, 6-1.
the no. 6 singles match marked the third tiebreaker in Monday’s showdown. Andre, who played his first singles match since Feb. 6 for the Hoosiers, defeated freshman Jackson Ross 7-5 in the first set. Ross took the second 6-3 and closed the match out with a tight 11-9 win in the tiebreaker.
Monday’s match won’t be the last time Indiana will face ranked teams or individual opponents. The Big Ten conference is swarming with talent this season, especially from the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
Indiana will see more top-100 competition next week when it travels to Tampa, Florida, to face the University of South Florida on March 16. The outdoor experience against Auburn, albeit short-lived, will also give the Hoosiers a taste of the warmer , weather-dependent conditions they will see in Florida.
With a win against the No. 69-ranked Bulls, the Hoosiers would bounce back to 0.500 on the season.