UT Martin sophomore Hitomi Naito was undefeated in conference singles play until Tuesday when she played Murray State senior Andrea Eskauriatza at Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts.
The match was back and forth with Eskauriatza winning the first set 7-5 and losing the second set 6-1. In the deciding set Eskauriatza was able to take control of the match and win 6-2.
Eskauriatza’s win was part of a 7-0 victory by the Racers (10-3, 4-1) against the Skyhawks (5-5, 2-1). The match was previously scheduled for March 18 but rain forced the coaches to postpone it.
“It was raining a little during warmups but the courts were still playable,” said Head Coach Jorge Caetano. “After we got started the rain started to accumulate on the lines so we talked about it and they (Skyhawks) are only a 45-minute drive from us so we thought it was better to postpone than to try and wait it out.”
During Spring Break the women and men’s teams played three OVC matches starting on March 17 with Austin Peay State at Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts. Despite wind gusts up to 20 mph, the women made quick work of the Lady Govs (2-13, 0-5), winning 7-0.
The men’s team (0-12, 0-3) tried to continue the winning for the Racers but lost to the Govs (8-4, 3-0) 6-1. Sophomore Anjan Kashyab won his first collegiate tennis match 6-3, 6-2 and provided the lone point for the Racers.
Next up for the Racers women’s team was Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (7-8, 3-1) on March 20. The women started with the first point winning the doubles portion of the match and collected four wins in singles to earn the win 5-2 over the Cougars.
Wins continued to elude the men’s team as they lost to the Cougars 6-1. Senior Max McLean won the Racers’ only point.
“This has been a tough year so far but we are getting better,” said Head Coach Mel Purcell. “I’ve got freshman Will True playing in the one spot and he’s gaining a lot of experience there.”
After the match against the Cougars, the teams traveled to Charleston, Illinois to play Eastern Illinois on March 21. During the doubles portion of the women’s match, Eskauriatza began to feel ill and was unable to play in the singles matches.
“She was doing fine during the doubles and then she just got to where she couldn’t move and said she didn’t feel right,” Caetano said. “We had to move everyone up a spot and I don’t think any of them were really prepared for that change.”
The women lost 4-3 and it was the first OVC loss for the season.
“I think if they had known that Andrea wouldn’t be playing then they could’ve been mentally prepared,” Caetano said.
For the men, the match was another 6-1 loss. The win this time coming from number five sophomore David Hess.
The women’s team plays at 10 a.m. Friday at Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts against Eastern Kentucky (8-6, 3-0). The men’s team will play the Colonels (11-5, 4-0) at the conclusion of the match. The women’s team will play again on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. against Morehead State (5-6, 3,0). The men’s match against the Eagles (4-10, 2,2) will follow the women’s match.
Story by Blake Bernier, Staff writer