Jan. 24, 2008
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue's tennis teams begin their dual seasons this weekend. The men will stay home to play host to Marquette (2-0) and Butler (0-3) while the 49th-ranked women venture to "The Volunteer State" to battle Middle Tennessee State (0-2) and the No. 22 Lady Vols (2-0).
Tennessee, who edged the Boilermakers 4-3 last season, is the fourth-consecutive nationally ranked opponent Purdue will come across in the last two weeks. The Boilermakers experienced mixed results at last week's Virginia Team Invitational, facing players from No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 33 LSU and No. 39 Virginia.
"I felt we were right there with Virginia and Wake Forest," said first-year head coach Laura Glitz. "I asked the players what was different between them and the No. 21 team in the country, considering we almost won the doubles point and had some close losses in singles."
Brooke Beier and Cigdem Duru higlighted the Boilermakers' weekend by winning two of three doubles contests and the flight 'A' points title. The seniors are 4-4 since joining forces in the fall, but will certainly have their hands full with Tennessee's No. 2 nationally ranked doubles combo of Zsofia Zubor and Caitlin Whoriskey. As a singles player, Zubor is ranked 95th by the ITA.
Beier said this weekend's duals will gauge where Purdue is at as a team.
"These matches are going to be good tests for us," said Beier. "We're taking both opponents very seriously and can't afford to overlook either team."
The Boilermakers played members of Tennessee and MTSU last fall at the St. Mary's Classic. Purdue was 2-0 against Tennessee in singles as Beier beat Connor Vogel 6-4, 6-4 and Anna Dzeva defeated Rosalie Alda 6-3, 6-2. Against MTSU, the Boilermakers posted a 2-2 record, which included Beier's and Duru's 8-3 'A' flight win over Shannon Hartmann and Claudia Szabo.
Beier and Duru should not expect a rematch with Hartmann and Szabo if the Blue Raiders again utilize last weekend's lineup that lost to the Lady Vols and Ole Miss. Senior Ann Siljestrom and junior Marlene Chemin currently own the No. 1 doubles spot with Hartmann and Szabo behind them at No. 2.
The Boilermakers lead their all-time series with MTSU 5-0, but haven't beat Tennessee in 14 tries.
The Purdue men have opened its last two seasons with Butler and Marquette and have experienced unprecedent success against both programs. The Boilermakers are 11-0 against the Golden Eagles and have won 32 of 34 meetings vs. the Bulldogs.
Last year, Purdue beat Butler 6-1 and Marquette 5-2. The Boilermakers dropped the doubles point to the Golden Eagles before rallying for five singles wins.
Purdue men's head coach Tim Madden has regularly touted doubles as the team's primary strength, but he was alarmed by the team's performance against Western Michigan, in which they dropped three contests by scores of 8-3, 8-4 and 8-4.
The team plans to concentrate on doubles play at this week's practice with a focus on fundamentals and trust.
"I'm not ready to abandon our combinations just yet, but a team is worthless on the court if there's no chemistry," said Madden. "As a coach, my role is to determine who's a better fit on the deuce- and ad-courts. Everything else is up to the players to fix."
Senior Jose Fuenmayor is regarded as one of the Boilermakers' top doubles players, although his overall record does not reflect the intangibles he brings to the court. Fuenmayor and Eric Hodgman posted a 4-2 record against Big Ten opponents last season, dispatching tandems from No. 34 Minnesota, No. 19 Michigan and No. 66 Indiana.
"Jose is just a force out there," said Madden. "He can hit hard on returns. And as our lone senior, he brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our lineup."
The top four positions in singles are pretty well set with Branko Kuzmanovic, Slavko Bijelica, P.J. Rose and Eric Ramos leading the lineup. However, there's a logjam of solid players competing for spots No. 5 and 6.
Madden rotated sophomore Paul Foley, junior Griff Nienberg and freshman Eren Turkmenler though the last two positions during last weekend's Boilermaker Invitational. Foley posted a 2-1 record while Nienberg and Turkmenler finished a game back at 1-2.
Purdue lost at the No. 5 and 6 spots to Western Michigan, but won at No.'s 1 to 4. The most impressive of these victories was Kuzmanovic's 6-3, 6-3 win over the Midwest region's 30th-ranked player Kevin Hayward.
Kuzmanovic's straight-set, no tiebreak triumph was only his second of 2007-08 and his first since the opening round of the Purdue Fall Invitational on Oct. 13. That afternoon, the sophomore beat Marquette's Nick Boulieris 6-1, 6-4. Since then Kuzmanovic has played 11 matches, eight of which have either been decided in three sets or in a tiebreaker.
Madden jokingly says Kuzmanovic would be happy being on the court all day. But the Serbia native quickly pounced on Hayward in both sets.
"Branko is in complete control once he gains a certain level of confidence," said Madden. "As a smaller, faster-style of competitor, he possesses striking skills that can counter attacks from the bigger players. He just needs to learn how to use all his weapons."
Purdue's dual with Marquette begins Saturday at 1 p.m. It's match with Butler starts Sunday at noon.