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Men's Tennis Hosts Doubleheader Saturday
The Spartans will look to snap a three-match skid this weekend.
The Spartans will look to snap a three-match skid this weekend.

Jan. 31, 2014


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The No. 48 Michigan State men's tennis team will look to get back on track this weekend as it hosts a doubleheader of action Saturday afternoon. The Spartans will play Ball State at 12 p.m. and Eastern Illinois at 6 p.m. inside the MSU Indoor Tennis Facility. Admission is free.

"We're excited about being home and competing here," head coach Gene Orlando said. "We've got to be ready to play our best tennis."

First Serve
The Spartans are looking to snap a three-match losing streak this weekend. The last three opponents for MSU have all been ranked higher than the Spartans and have all been on courts away from East Lansing. MSU dropped a tight match at No. 29 Notre Dame, 5-2, on Jan. 19. The Spartans competed in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament last weekend hosted by Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. No. 6 Tennessee took down MSU, 4-1, and the following day in the consolation match, MSU was shut out by No. 34 NC State, 4-0.

This weekend will be MSU's first home match since the season opener on Jan. 11 and after this weekend, MSU won't return for a home match until Feb. 22 against Xavier.

In dual matches, MSU maintains a 14-11 overall record in singles and a 6-7 record in doubles.

Coach O's Cardinal Connection
Coach Orlando is a 1987 graduate of Ball State and was a four-year member in the tennis program under Coach Bill Richards, who is now in his 42nd season guiding the Cardinals. Orlando was a part of four MAC Championships. He also was a conference champion his junior and senior seasons. For his career, Orlando tallied a 91-40 singles record and a 98-24 doubles record. Following graduation, Orlando also spent a year as a graduate assistant under Richards. In 1997, Orlando was inducted into the Ball State University Athletics Hall of Fame.



Facing his mentor, Orlando has compiled a 13-8 record including winning the last seven in a row and eight of the last 10.

"I have the utmost respect for Coach Richards," Orlando said. "He gave me an opportunity and helped me get into the coaching game. Without him, I'm not where I am today. I learned a lot from him being my mentor."

Ball State holds a 2-1 record three matches into its 2014 season. The Cardinals lost its most recent match on Jan. 26 to Cleveland State 5-2.

Junior Ray Leonard leads the way on the singles court. Leonard was a first team All-MAC selection last season and has marked a 2-1 record this season on the top court. Junior Patrick Elliott is 3-0 on the No. 2 court thus far.

In the alleys, the Cardinals are a perfect 6-0 combined on the top two courts. The team of Elliott and Leonard have played all three matches on the top court, going 3-0.

In the last meeting between the schools, MSU beat up Ball State 6-1 in East Lansing.

Eyeing Eastern Illinois
The match against MSU will be just the second match of the season for the Panthers. Eastern Illinois is 1-0 on the young season after edging out Saint Louis 4-3 on Jan. 25. EIU compiled a 7-10 dual meet record, including a 2-7 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play last season.

Eric Stark is in his first year leading the Panthers. Sophomore Moritz Kandt played on the top singles court in the team's only match of the season.

Saturday's match will mark the first meeting between the schools in four years. MSU defeated EIU 6-1 on March 13, 2010, in East Lansing.

Tough Schedule Ahead
After making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history last season, Coach Orlando certainly is not taking this year to celebrate and relax. Of MSU's five matches it has played, three of them have been against ranked opponents on the road. The Spartans are not shying away from big-time matchups, as it still has road dates with No. 13 Kentucky, No. 30 Tulsa, No. 24 Harvard and No. 47 Louisville remaining.

The Spartans will be battle-tested when it comes time for Big Ten play. The conference currently boasts 10 of its 12 members in the top 73 in the country, including No. 5 Ohio State and No. 19 Illinois.


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