By Brandon Tripp, Sports Writer
After smashing through the first part of their schedules, the ACU tennis teams went into their bye week on a roll; they came out of their bye week just the same. The men won five of their six matches over the weekend, and the women took two of three. The teams also added four more Division I schools to their list of wins for the season.
“I think we played well overall on the weekend and continued to play at a level to get us where we need to go,” head coach Hutton Jones said.
The men came off a solid performance in Arizona two weeks ago and did not skip a beat, taking down the first five opponents of the weekend in dominating fashion, two of them in shutouts. The Wildcats defeated Austin Peay 7-1, Lipscomb 7-0, Western Kentucky 7-2, Northern Kentucky 8-1 and Bellarmine 8-0. The Wildcats did drop their final match to Division I opponent Eastern Kentucky in a close one 4-3.
ACU began its three grueling days of double-headers with a pair of impressive wins against two Tennessee Division I teams in Austin Peay and Lipsomb University. The only loss in the match against APSU came at the No. 1 singles spot, when Juan Nuñez dropped a tough match to the Governor’s Leonardo Locatelli in three sets, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6. The Wildcats came back in their second match of the day against Lipscomb, taking the doubles point 2-1. The singles play proved to be no problem for the men, who finished off the Bison without dropping a set in singles play.
ACU would roll through the next day’s competition, defeating Division I foe Western Kentucky and shutting out Bellarmine.
The one blemish on the weekend came on the Wildcats’ sixth match in three days, as they dropped a close match to Eastern Kentucky 4-3. ACU won the doubles point, taking an early 1-0 lead, but the team could not hold on for the win. The men had their chances against EKU but lost at the No. 1, 2, 5, 6 singles matches to give the win to Eastern Kentucky.
“It was a tough weekend, but we didn’t really feel it until after our last match when we sat down,” Nuñez said.
After the weekend, the No. 19 Wildcats improved to an impressive 14-2 on the season and 8-2 against Division I opponents.
The women played just three matches over the weekend with a doubleheader Monday. In those three matches, the Wildcats went 2-1, defeating Oklahoma Christian 8-1 and edging out their second Lone Star Conference opponent Central Oklahoma 5-4.
Central Oklahoma is the first LSC opponent the Wildcats have faced since taking on Southeastern Oklahoma on Feb. 2. The Bronchos jumped out to a 2-1 lead after Irene Squillaci and Jaclyn Walker were the only doubles team to manage a win for the Wildcats. ACU fell behind even further, losing the first two singles matches when Squillaci dropped her match in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, and Broncho Julia Shviadok edged out Walker in a close three-set match, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. After being down 4-1, the Wildcats took the last four singles matches of the day to scoot by the Bronchos with the 5-4 win.
“It was a good match for us; they are a good team,” Jones said.
After the weekend’s play, the No. 7 Wildcats improved to 12-3 overall and took their conference record to 2-0.
Both Wildcat teams will be on the road this weekend to take on four competitors in three days. The Wildcats will travel to San Antonio on Saturday to take on Schreiner, and then make the trek to New Braunfels to battle Incarnate Word. On Sunday, ACU will end up in Austin to face St. Edward’s.
The No. 19 men’s team will be facing its first LSC foe of the team season, while the No. 7 women are looking to go 3-0 in conference play. Midwestern State’s men’s team comes into the match at 2-2 and 0-0 in conference play. The Lady Mustangs are looking to blemish the Wildcats’ perfect conference record and go 1-0 themselves Monday when the Wildcats come to town.
“This weekend is a statement,” Nuñez said. “We need to show the region and conference teams we face that we are here for more than just a conference title or a regional title; we are here to win nationals.”