By Robert Hayes
It’s been quite a season for the Youngstown State University men’s tennis team, as they recently knocked off Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis by a score of 5-2 at the Boardman Tennis Center.
The win caps off a 12-7 regular season record (5-1 in the Horizon League) to claim the second seed for the first time in program history.
For senior Yossi Dahan, this accomplishment is a testament of his team’s determination.
“We’ve been working hard all year, we wanted to be seeded high and start in the semifinal, and start strong going into the Horizon League,” he said.
Dahan was one of three seniors honored as part of senior day festivities, as Luke Purser and Danylo Veremeichuk were also recognized for their accomplishments at YSU.
Finishing his final season strong has meaning for Dahan.
“Every next year we’re trying to do better than the previous one,” Dahan said. “Being second seeded my last year means a lot. That’s how I want the guys to continue after I’m done here. Obviously, we don’t want to just be in the semifinal. We want to go all the way. That’s why we’re here and we’re going to do our best.”
This season also marks the first time YSU has gone though league play with only one loss. First year coach Ulises Hernandez is pleased with the way his team handled the regular season.
“The guys put in the work throughout the year. Since the fall when I arrived here, they decided that I’m going to buy into what we have to do, and they just followed the process throughout the time,” Hernandez said.
The April 20 match didn’t start on a high note, as the Jaguars (13-10, 3-3) took the doubles point early on, which was the first time this season that YSU lost in the doubles round.
The duo of Joao Garretto and Veremeichuk won their doubles match, but IUPUI took the other two matches to claim the point.
Hernandez’s team was in this situation before in non-conference play.
“When we were in Orlando, we lost the doubles point to Northern Illinois, Creighton and Fairleigh Dickinson, and we still end up pulling out because these guys believe in themselves. And more importantly they feel like someone believes in what they’re trying to do, and that’s what made them do it,” Hernandez said. “They know the trust is in them to pull off what they need to do. It’s just for the team and for more importantly themselves.”
Being down early didn’t phase Dahan.
“It was hard because it was the first time we lost the doubles in the league. We were dominating the doubles against everyone, so coming down from one-love down and winning five singles means a lot. We showed our spirit today,” Dahan said.
Erik Gran, Vasilis Vardakis, Dahan, Garretto and Veremeichuk each won their singles match to drive the Penguins to victory.
After a nearly a week of preparation, YSU will travel on Thursday, and will have one final tuneup on Friday before their big match at the Schwartz Tennis Center on the campus of Purdue University.
The Penguins will play the winner of the University of Illinois at Chicago (5-14, 4-2) versus Northern Kentucky University (5-11, 1-5) matchup on Saturday afternoon, with the semifinal matchup kicking off at 11 a.m.