March 14, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
The Michigan State men's tennis team (6-7, 0-1 Big Ten) concludes its non-conference portion of its schedule Saturday when it travels to Louisville, Ky., to take on the 32nd-ranked Louisville Cardinals. Play is set to begin at 12 p.m. at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center. Play will either be held inside or outside, depending on the weather. An early forecast calls for 64 degrees on Saturday and head coach Gene Orlando is optimistic his team will get a chance to play outside before Big Ten play begins.
The Spartans are coming off a win this past Wednesday, when they nearly swept Western Michigan, winning by a final of 6-1. The win snapped a two-match losing streak and allowed MSU to grab some momentum before its last non-conference match and then ensuing Big Ten play.
"It was a much needed W," Orlando said following the win on March 12. "We were able to take control of the doubles point right from the get go, and we got some momentum going. It looked like they feel a little more comfortable in singles, too."
Against Western, MSU won the doubles point for the seventh time in 13 tries this season and is 6-1 when winning the initial point. MSU also won five of six singles matches, claiming wins on courts two through six.
MSU is 44-27 (.620) as a team in singles, including posting nine wins apiece on courts two and five.
In doubles, MSU is 20-15 (.571) as a team, including posting eight wins on the second court.
One Spartan from this year's team might be especially looking forward to Saturday's match because he will be returning to his hometown. Redshirt senior Will Davis attended Kentucky Country Day in Louisville and the Spartans will be playing at Louisville for the first time in Davis' five years on campus. While at Kentucky Country Day, Davis lettered in both tennis and swimming. Among some of his high school highlights on the tennis court include: playing in the No. 1 singles position all four years, winning the Kentucky State Qualifier twice, earning all-state recognition and being elected team captain his senior season.
"He's super excited," Orlando said of Davis heading back home. "This is something he wanted from the very beginning of the school year and his career. We kind of worked it that way. He's excited to get down there and showcase his team."
During his time in Green and White, Davis has compiled an overall singles record of 51-42.
"Will Davis has been a great player for us," Orlando said. "He's a great team guy and looks after his teammates so we're excited to take him home."
The Cardinals come into Saturday's matchup ranked No. 32 in the nation, tallying an 11-4 record, including a 9-2 mark at home. Rex Ecarma is in his 23rd season as head coach.
Louisville is 3-1 against Big Ten opponents this season, having defeated No. 56 Nebraska, No. 26 Northwestern and No. 59 Indiana.
The Cardinals do not have any players nationally ranked in singles or doubles. In singles, Seb Stiefelmeyer has played the majority of the matches on the top court and is 5-5 when playing No. 1. As a team, Louisville is 62-23 (.729) in singles play, including receiving 12, 11 and 13 wins from courts four, five and six, respectively.
In doubles, the Cardinals are 24-19 (.558) as a team, with 15 different doubles tandems having played this spring dual season. Stiefelmeyer and Van Damrongsri are 4-5 on the top doubles court.
MSU is 3-4 all-time against Louisville. The last meeting came on March 20, 2005, which ended in a 5-2 win for the Cardinals on their home court.
Pfister & Forman
MSU has received nine wins apiece on courts two and five, and senior co-captain Aaron Pfister and freshman Brett Forman are a large reason why. Pfister has tallied an 8-5 overall record this spring, including going 7-2 on the second court. Pfister played the first match of the season on the second court, then was moved up to the top court for four matches. Since returning to the second court on Feb. 1, he is 6-2.
Forman leads the team in singles wins, posting a 9-1 overall mark and is 4-0 on court five. Forman was moved up in the lineup Feb. 28, and has played his last three matches on court four. He is 2-1 since the move.
"Breakdown Before the Breakthrough"
Coach Orlando has used the phrase multiple times this season as a way to keep his team motivated and prepared for the moments when the big-time, ranked wins come. MSU has been highly competitive in each and every match its played, with the winning points literally just match points away. Orlando is keeping his team focused on the next match, keeping a winning mentality, and making sure his team is doing everything they can in practice to stay on top of their game.
Orlando has also stressed the importance of winning first sets in singles matches, in order to get ahead and force the other team to try and comeback.
"That's the key, whether you win the doubles point or lose the doubles point, in singles it's trying to get as many first sets and four first sets is the magical number," Orlando said. "We are just trying to get ahead in matches and trying to find a way to win."
After Saturday's match, it will be Big Ten play the rest of the season. MSU travels to State College, Pa., March 21 to battle No. 27 Penn State, and then will return home March 23 for a match against the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.