Junior Orhan Spahic
April 6, 2012
By Tyler Wooten
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois men's tennis team plays host to Wichita State on Saturday to begin Missouri Valley Conference play.
Location: Carbondale, Ill.
Site: University Courts (Sports Blast if weather is inclement)
First Serve: 11 a.m.
Southern Illinois: Dann Nelson (Seventh year; 112-90 overall; 93-83 in Division I; 75-69 at SIU)
Wichita State: Brad Louderback (Fifth year; 143-92 in Division I Men's Tennis; 73-51 at Illinois; 70-41 at WSU)
Southern Illinois: The Salukis (5-10, 0-0 MVC) fell to Austin Peay, 4-0, on April 1 at the Sun Belt Shootout.
Wichita State: The Shockers (11-4, 0-0 MVC) swept Washburn, 7-0, on March 31.
Home Sweet Home
The Salukis are currently 2-2 at home this season, where they are historically successful under head coach Dann Nelson. Southern is 35-16 at home under Nelson, which yields a .686 winning percentage. A Nelson coached Saluki team has never lost more than four home matches in a season (2006 and 2010), and has posted two one-loss seasons in 2007 and 2009, the latter of which was the season the Saluki men took the Missouri Valley crown.
Scouting the Shockers
The Shockers -- who were nationally ranked until this past Tuesday -- are currently second in the conference overall behind No. 46 Drake (17-2).
WSU is dominating singles with a .733 winning percentage, especially at the top two positions held by Matheus Pereira (12-2 at No. 1) and David Cavalcanti (9-3 at No. 2).
Those two also form the Shockers' best doubles team. Cavalcanti and Pereira -- who spent time nationally ranked this season -- are 11-3 this dual match season and 22-7 overall at the No. 1 spot.
This past fall and winter the Salukis and the Shockers met in two tournaments, culminating for the Salukis with junior Badr Cherradi's 6-3, 6-4 win over then 66th-ranked Matheus Pereira at the MVC Individual Championships.
In 2011, the Salukis fell to the Shockers 6-1 in Wichita on April 9 to open the Valley season. From the teams fielded that day, Southen returns five players (the injured Jorge Cavero had the only Saluki win), and the Shockers return three (Cavalcanti, Pereira and Guillermo Nicol).
The Salukis stand at 5-10 at the onset of Missouri Valley play, but the players and Coach Nelson believe the tough schedule has helped prime them for what is sure to be a grueling MVC schedule.
"To be successful this weekend we just need to get off to a good start," said junior co-captain Brandon Florez.
"Some of our problems that we've had lately is that we've played well, but it takes too long," Florez said. "We get broken down in the first game, so we're already off the bat fighting to catch up."
I think now the team is finally on the same page where we can all play well on the same day. At least over spring break I feel that is where we're heading towards, and that's a positive. We were never consistent -- now, we're there."
"The conference this year is very, very good," said senior Stanislas Rodier. "If we want to play at the highest level in the conference we need to bring our best game."
"When we're all on the same page and we're all fighting for each other and for the team all on the same day, that's when it's going to translate into wins,"said head coach Dann Nelson. "We have to have every player fighting and contributing to the team total every time we play. We've maybe been a bit inconsistent up to this point, so that's what we need to have happen from here on out in the conference season."