[media-credit name=’UW Athletic Communications’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′][/media-credit]After returning from last week’s spring break trip to Miami, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team (6-8, 0-4 Big Ten) hopes to use its momentum to notch its first Big Ten victories of the season as it tackles tough opponents No. 72 Penn State (12-3, 1-2) and No. 57 Indiana (8-8, 2-1) this weekend.
While the Badgers face stiff Big Ten competition ahead, back in Miami, the Badgers won two out of three matches by defeating Indiana State and Florida Atlantic, while dropping their match against No. 67 Miami. Head coach Pat Klingelhoets believed the trip provided a much-needed spark for upcoming matches.
“[I felt] really good. We had a great trip,” Klingelhoets said. “We played three good matches and we beat Florida Atlantic — who we’ve lost to the last couple of years, and it’s basically the same team they’ve had — so that was good. Our guys handled the 90-degree heat and humidity very well … and we just got a lot of good outdoor hitting in, so we’re excited to play on Saturday.”
Looking forward to the weekend, Wisconsin hopes to tally its first Big Ten win when it faces Penn State at noon Saturday at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. Though Wisconsin has won its last nine meetings against Penn State, Klingelhoets is not taking the Nittany Lions lightly.
“It’s going to be a hell of a match,” Klingelhoets said. “Penn State’s got their best team that I think they’ve ever had. I mean, they’ve really got a good club this year, but we feel like we can certainly beat them … it’s probably going to be a 4-3 match.”
The Nittany Lions come into Madison on the strength of a three-match win streak. Penn State junior Mark Barry has won four out of his last five matches both at the No. 1 singles position and at the No. 1 doubles spot with Junior Malcolm Scatliffe.
As the Badgers focus on Saturday’s match against Penn State, Klingelhoets has expressed his delight with the play of junior Mark Weinig, who broke his six-game losing streak against Florida Atlantic last Friday. With Weinig’s presence in the lineup, Klingelhoets hopes the team will finally emerge as a stable, well-oiled machine.
“Mark (Weinig) finally played a really good match at [the six position] for us against Florida Atlantic,” Klingelhoets said. “We’ve been struggling at the six position all year, so that was really good to see. Hopefully we can build off of that, and Mark will give us a guy at six that’s going to be solid.”
Along with Weinig, freshman phenom Jeremy Sonkin has been playing well of late, winning 10 of his last 12 singles matches at the No. 2 position and three out of four doubles matches with fellow freshman Elliot Bisnow at the No. 3 spot. Sonkin currently holds a 10-3 singles record.
“I think I’m playing really well,” Sonkin said. “Besides my one match against Miami, I’m very pleased with how I’m playing. All in all, my drive is really strong right now and I just got to keep going.”
Sonkin is also hoping his consistent performance will rally up the team against Penn State. His determination and motivated play has enabled him to keep focus, and he has been stressing the team’s preparation for the upcoming match.
“All the guys are going to have to come out ready and freshly prepared to play,” Sonkin said. “[Penn State’s] going to be tough to line up doubles and singles one through six because they have a really solid team. If we come out prepared to play, pumped up and energized, it will be a close match and I think we can take it.”
The Badgers will also have their work cut out for them Sunday when Indiana travels to the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. Five out of the previous six matches with the Badgers have swung the Hoosiers’ way, including the last two, each by the score of 5-2.
“Indiana, on paper, is a tad better than Penn State,” Klingelhoets said. “We feel like we’ve got a shot to beat them. I mean, at home here, if we can get the Penn State match and get some confidence going, we have a shot at Indiana, too.”
Indiana currently boasts a four-match win streak and will look to its Czech Republic natives, senior Jakub Praibis and sophomore David Bubenicek, to carry them to another victory. Praibis, ranked No. 39 in the country, has won seven out of his last eight singles matches at the No. 1 flight, as well as his last six doubles matches with Ukrainian junior Dmytro Ishtuganov. Bubenicek is 16-4 on the season thus far, and has won his last nine matches at the No. 3 spot.
While Klingelhoets anticipates both matches, he is keeping his focus on one match at a time, stressing the importance of defeating Penn State and scoring a Big Ten victory.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Klingelhoets said. “[Penn State] is obviously a huge match for us because we need to get on the scoreboard here in the Big Ten. This is a match we can win, but it’s going to be a tough match, and hopefully we can sneak out on top.”