Feb. 15, 2008
Big Ten Network ~ Free Purdue Boilermakers Video
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue men's tennis team (3-3) plays host to non-conference foes Maryland (3-0) and Toledo (6-4) this weekend at the Schwartz Tennis Center. The dual between the Boilermakers and Terrapins is scheduled to start Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Purdue and Toledo renew their rivalry Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Boilermakers are unbeaten at Schwartz through three matches this season, knocking off Marquette, Butler and Indiana State. Even though the Golden Eagles stretched Purdue to the final point, Maryland (ACC) represents Purdue's first major conference challenge at home.
"Maryland has earned a lot of respect at the national level and it's a team we need to beat if we hope to increase our level of competitiveness through the semester," Purdue head coach Tim Madden said.
The Terrapins are Purdue's fourth biggest test of the spring after Harvard, William & Mary and the SEC's Arkansas Razorbacks. The Boilermakers lost 4-3 to both the Tribe and Razorbacks, partly because they couldn't claim the doubles point.
"We've been playing solid doubles at every position in most of our matches, but were not doing everything necessary to get those big wins," Madden said. "The team possesses a solid fundamental base, but we have to learn to take more risks and stop playing so conservatively. Those doubles points can go a long way in determining whether or not we make NCAA's."
The Terrapins are 3-0 as a result of back-to-back-to-back 7-0 home court thrashings of East Coast rivals Georgetown, Navy and Villanova, in which they lost at just one position (No. 2 doubles vs. Georgetown). Maryland's lone nationally ranked players are Boris Fetbroyt and Andrew Orban, who comprise the ITA's No. 38 doubles tandem.
The Rockets already have 10 decisions under their belt and are 6-4 entering this weekend in which they'll play at No. 66 Iowa before arriving in West Lafayette. Toledo's losses have come against quality opponents such as No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 52 Kentucky and No. 64 Michigan State.
Last weekend, the Rockets rebounded from their loss at MSU with three-consecutive home wins. Toledo beat Dayton and IUPUI 7-0 and Duquense 6-1. UT's Chris Clark and Sven Burus both went 6-0 in the three matches while junior Jay Miller went 4-1 and freshman Gursher Harika went 4-0.
Junior Griff Nienberg, who has firmly established himself in the Purdue lineup this season, believes both opponents will present their own unique set of challenges for the Boilermakers.
"I think Maryland is similar to us and will probably end up in the national rankings by the end of the year, if not sooner," Nienberg said. "They're going to test and see exactly where we're at as a team this season. Toledo may be a little weaker statistically, but we clearly can't afford to take them lightly."
Purdue improved to 5-1 all time vs. Toledo last year following a 5-2 home win. One of the Rockets' points was earned at No. 6 singles as Tyler Sonkin defeated Nienberg 6-2, 6-4.
Nienberg's appearance against Toledo last season was one of only eight dual matches for the Beverly Hills, Mich., native. He played just three times in February and March before claiming the No. 6 spot as his own during the last few weeks of the Big Ten season.
Nienberg has not relinquished his spot in the lineup since then, and said his improved performances are a result of keeping his emotions in check.
"I'm just not that hard on myself anymore," Nienberg said. "I've learned from my past experiences to develop a more laid back approach and not get as angry."
Nienberg's improvements have resulted in a 4-1 dual record, in which he's making fewer unforced errors while still remaining aggressive. His coaches and teammates should count on him to play at the No. 4 or 5 position for the remainder of the spring.
"It's a good feeling to be in the lineup," Nienberg said. "It took me awhile to find my game, but now that I have this opportunity, I feel that I can be a primary contributor."
Admission is free to all Boilermaker regular season home matches at the Schwartz Tennis Center. Fans who are unable to attend either match this weekend are welcome to follow along via the live scoreboard at purduesports.com.