Jacks are back for more
The South Dakota State men’s tennis team is set for its second-consecutive appearance in The Summit League Championships after its regular-season runner-up league finish.
The Jacks closed the regular season at 11-10 overall and a stellar 4-1 in league play, good for second in the final standings. SDSU finished the regular season on a five-meet winning streak and finished league play on a four-meet winning streak. The Jacks outscored opponents 26-5 in its final five meets.
Led by second-year head coach Michael Engdahl, SDSU is prepared for its second opportunity at the championships.
“It is exciting,” Engdahl said. “The exciting part about this year is that we did not back our way into [the championships]; we earned our way. The Summit League was deeper this year and we came together at the right time and played good tennis. We are excited to be the No. 2 seed and hopefully we can do some damage tomorrow.”
New faces make up four of the six singles spots, including No. 1 singles player Andrea Boglić. He posted a 6-9 record at the top spot, 2-2 in The Summit League and 7-10 overall on the season. Boglić was 6-3 in his last 10 matches and won his final match of the regular season. Boglić was named Summit League Men’s Tennis Player of the Week once during his freshman season.
Parker Lawley led the Jacks with a team-best 13 singles wins. His 13 wins were spread out over three positions: 4-1 at No. 2, 6-3 at No. 3 and 3-1 at No. 4 (he was 0-1 at No. 1, also). Lawley was undefeated in league play at 4-0, 7-2 in his last 10 matches and won his last seven matches of the regular season. Lawley was named Player of the Week twice, including the final week of the regular season.
The duo teamed up for a 9-4 record at the top doubles spot, as well. Boglić was 0-4 in doubles prior to the partner change and Lawley was 1-6. The duo was 3-1 in league play, 7-3 in its last 10 matches and won its final two matches of the regular season.
“Parker has been a rock and very steady,” said Engdahl. “He has been one of our most consistent players, especially from a mental standpoint. You know exactly what you are going to get from him. He is a professional and approaches the game the right way. He is a coach’s dream, as far as what he brings to the table.”
Mateus Moreira is another new face in the middle of the Jackrabbit lineup. He played the majority of his singles matches at No. 2 and No. 3, but has at least one result at every spot except No. 4. Moreira finished the regular season at 10-9 overall, 1-3 in The Summit and 5-4 at No. 2, the position with the most results.
Although the starting lineup is young, SDSU is anchored by its lone senior and team captain James Thorp. He played his first home meet this fall and is in his second championships. Thorp played the entire middle of the lineup for the Jacks, with the most results at No. 5 singles. He was 8-11 overall, 2-1 in league play and 7-5 after he settled into the No. 5 spot. Thorp won his final match of the regular season. Last season he was named to the Men’s Tennis All-Summit Team.
The two spent the season experimenting with many doubles partners, but eventually settled in at the No. 2 position together. Moreira and Thorp finished the regular season with a 6-3 overall record and 3-1 league record, all at No. 2. The pair won its last two matches of the regular season.
“Thorp has definitely been a leader, especially when it comes to energy,” Engdahl said. “We started slow because we were young and getting our feet wet, and we did not know our identity. He helped create the identity and stepped up when the energy was low. Thorp won two “clutch” matches, including the meet-clinching match versus IUPUI. He stepped up when he needed to, which is great to see out of a senior.”
Two new faces, same name, no relation, round out the Jackrabbit lineup.
Henrique Pereira also posted results in four singles positions, but played primarily No. 4 for the SDSU. H. Pereira was 11-9 overall, second-best record on the team, and 3-1 in The Summit League. He was 6-4 at No. 4 and was 7-2 in his last 10 matches, including a four-match winning streak to close out the regular season. The six wins at No. 4 tied Boglić and Lawley for the most at a single position by any Jackrabbit.
Lucas Pereira played all but four matches at No. 6 singles and finished the regular season 8-10. L. Pereira was 6-8 in the final spot and 1-3 in league play.
The two teamed up for the best doubles record in the lineup. H. Pereira and L. Pereira were 8-2 overall and 4-1 in The Summit, all at No. 3. The duo won its last five matches, the longest streak by any Jackrabbit doubles team this season.
“We are extremely complete,” said Engdahl. “Every match a different player steps up. It is nice to not depend on a single player in a match. We have six players that can win, so if we are struggling at a certain spot, we can pick it up at another spot. When you go into a match with that confidence, it calms the team down and puts a lot of pressure on the opponent.
Lawley’s undefeated Summit League record (3-0) at No. 2 singles was tied for tops in the league. The three Jackrabbit doubles team combined for a 10-3 record in league play. H. Pereira and L. Pereira were tied for the best Summit League record (4-1) at No. 3 doubles.
THE OPPONENT: IUPUI Jaguars
The Jacks face the Jaguars for the second time this season. In this season’s meeting, the Jacks topped the Jags 4-3 on March 25 in a neutral-site meet at Kansas City, Mo. SDSU scored the team point with a sweep in doubles and won three of the six singles matches (Lawley at No. 3, H. Pereira at No. 4 and Thorp at No. 5) for the win. Thorp won the meet’s decisive match in singles. No doubles match was within three games and three singles matches were decided in three sets, only one of which went to the Jacks.
“IUPUI is all about energy and intensity,” Engdahl said. “They bring the pain to the tennis court. We will match them energy-wise. They are going to be out for revenge, as our last match went down to the wire and they were not happy when we beat them, so I am sure they will be fired up. But they need to be ready for the Jacks, as well.”
IUPUI finished in a tie for third place in the regular season standings, but advanced with the No. 3 seed via tiebreaker. The Jags finished with a 4-18 overall record, but 2-3 in league play with a win versus fellow 2-3 finisher Fort Wayne (No. 4 seed). Western Illinois also finished 2-3 in league play but did not qualify. In addition to its win versus IPFW, the Jags defeated St. Louis, Dayton and Omaha, all at home. IUPUI did not win a single meet on the road or at a neutral site.
The Jaguars have two of the top singles players in the league at their respective positions. Jason Jaruvang was undefeated (5-0) at the top spot, while Armaan Choudhary was 3-1 at No. 5. Jaruvang was a winner versus SDSU, but Choudhary did not play. Jaruvang and Jake Hedderig teamed up for one of the best doubles team in the league, as well. The duo was 4-1 at No. 3, its only loss versus H. Pereira/L. Pereira, co-leaders at that position.
While all of SDSU’s matches were away from home, the Jacks were 5-3 this season on neutral courts, including the win versus IUPUI. The team did not play in Fort Wayne this season. Both teams are seeking the first tournament championship in school history.
Start time is set for 3 p.m. (CST) on Friday, April 26, in Fort Wayne, Ind. The meet is the second men’s semifinal of the day, as top-seeded Kansas City meets the host institution and fourth-seeded Fort Wayne at 9 a.m.