April 21, 2012
By Tyler Wooten
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois men's tennis team plays host to Bradley this Saturday to kick off the Salukis' final homestand of 2012.
Location: Carbondale, Ill.
Site: University Courts (Sports Blast if weather is inclement)
First Serve: 1 p.m.
Southern Illinois: Dann Nelson (Seventh year; 114-92 overall; 95-85 in Division I; 77-71 at SIU)
Bradley: Jesse Plote (Fourth year; 42-53 at BU)
Southern Illinois: The Salukis (7-12, 1-2 MVC) fell to No. 49 Drake, 7-0 on April 15.
Bradley: The Braves (13-11, 2-2 MVC) took down Illinois State 5-2 on April 20.
Home Sweet Home
The Salukis are currently 2-3 at home this season, where they have historically been successful under head coach Dann Nelson. Southern is 35-17 at home under Nelson, which yields a .673 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 Braves
The Braves stand at 13-11 overall and 2-2 in MVC play. Bradley has won over half of its doubles matches, but the Braves have struggled in doubles, winning at a clip of less than 40 percent.
This season the Braves have had a top-player-by-committee with five different Braves taking a turn at the top position. In fact, at least four different players have played at every singles positions for the Braves this season.
Where Bradley has really excelled in singles is the middle positions at Nos. 3 and 4, where the Braves are 15-8 at each for a combined 30-16. However, the single record at those positions is Hamish Weerasinghe's 7-3 at No.4 singles.
In 2011, the Salukis twice faced Bradley, twice defeating them 4-3. The latter matchup came in the first round of the conference tournament, sending the Salukis to yet another MVC semifinal under Dann Nelson.
However, Southern only returns four players fielded in that last contest, wheras Bradley retained every player in both singles and doubles.
The Salukis stand at 1-2 in Missouri Valley play, but this weekend of conference competition offers a chance for Southern to finish at 3-2 in the conference and claim the No. 3 seed in the conference tourament next week.
"Bradley's much improved over last year, so we expect a very tough match," said head coach Dann Nelson. "We had two close matches with them last year and we won both of them 4-3, one of them on the road in the regular season, and one in the conference tournament. We're expecting a really tough match with Bradley."
"Illinois State is a very strong team. A lot of people picked them to be in the top three of the conference, so we know that we're gonna have to play well to get a victory. They could arguably have the best player in the conference in Alexander Pelaez. We know we're gonna have to play well. We're just hoping that we do the things that we do well."
"The No. 3 seed for the conference tournament is still out there, so it's up to Illinois State, us and Bradley for three, four and five. If you look at it that way, if everything goes well for one of those teams, if we're able to win twice this weekend, we're the No. 3 seed going into the tournament, where we would play the six seed, which would be Creighton. These matches are really important. And if you win two going into the conference tournament, you're going to have a lot of confidence."