Men’s tennis started the season strong by going 2-0 this weekend in Carolina. The team defeated Davidson 4-3 and Gardner-Webb 6-1. Doubles was able to find success on both days, accumulating team points for the Eagles in both matches. Senior Rice Lanne and sophomore Eddie Landin were part of that success, as they earned wins for the team in singles and doubles, respectively.
Head Coach Sander Koning is back at the helm for men’s tennis this year. One of the challenges of playing Davidson this weekend was playing indoors. At Davidson’s indoor facility, the team got to experience something not many of them had yet.
“We didn’t practice indoors at all because we don’t have indoors at Georgia Southern. It was a good test for us. We play indoor matches later on this season. Our team executed better than the other team. That’s what it came down to. The guys worked their patterns. They did what they needed to do.” Koning said.
Lanne and junior Christian Kerrigan comprised the number one doubles team on the weekend. Against Artem Khrapko and Jack Riazzi of Davidson on Saturday, they won 7-6, 7-4. Landin and junior Nico de Groof were number two and their win against Alex Howard and Evan Watkins of Davidson by a score of 6-4 was enough to secure the team point for Southern that day.
Needing only three more team points to claim the win, Lanne and Landin played up to their level. Lanne took out Khrapko in a quick fashion, 6-2, 6-2. Landin went on to defeat Jordan Hart 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. That left the match up to freshman Andre Johnson after sophomore J.C. Alcala, de Groof and redshirt junior Daniel Casablancas could not find wins that day.
“We started with four singles because [Davidson] only had four courts. Our number. 1, Rice, played well and got off the court quickly. He got us a 2-0 lead. Our number 2, JC: he had a little trouble playing indoors. I think it was his first indoor match. The same goes for Danny Casablancas, our number 5. They never played indoors so they had trouble getting their timing right. It was 3-3 and it all came down to our freshman. [Johnson] was very poised on critical moments. He went after his shots. He got the tiebreak; he played aggressive. Getting a first win as a freshman is tough. It’s very valuable.” Koning said.
Johnson’s 7-6, 7-5 victory over Riazzi was enough to push the Eagles to a team win on the day over Davidson.
This success carried into Sunday when the team played Gardner-Webb.
The 6-1 win for the Eagles looked convincing on paper, but Koning knew Southern was in for a match.
“Gardner-Webb didn’t quit when they were behind. All three doubles team came back and made it competitive. Fortunately for us, our No. 1 team were able to hold their lead and win 6-3. Our No. 2 doubles team were up a break, but got broken back. They went all the way to the end until winning 7-5.” Koning said.
Lanne and Kerrigan made up the number one team again. Their win over Nikita Zverkov and Yaroslav Prostakov earned the Eagles their first doubles point. It was de Groof and Landin at number two over Jonathan Walker and Paul Hogan of Gardner-Webb that allowed the Eagles their doubles win on the weekend.
For singles, Lanne won 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Gardner-Webb’s Maximillan School at the number one spot. Alcala at number two defeated Zverkov 6-3, 7-6. Landin followed to earn a win at number three to Prostakov 6-4, 6-2. Casablancas at number five was next with his victory to Hogan 6-2, 6-7, 6-4. Johnson closed it with another win on the weekend at No. 6 to Walker 3-6, 7-6, 10-7.
“I have to give credit to Gardner-Webb. Anytime we were in the lead, they got right back into the match. We had to be very focused on what we did. Fortunately, we had some good guys that were able to keep their composure and focus at critical times. That’s what it ultimately came down to.” Koning said.
Going 2-0 is a great start for the Eagles. Their next competition will be back in Carolina as they take on East Carolina on Friday, Jan. 29 and then Winthrop on Saturday, Jan. 30. These matches will both be in Greenville, NC. The Eagles will not be at home until the end of February.