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[ Monday, March 29, 1999 ]

Netmen hit Big Ten roadblock at Sarni

Collegian Staff Writer

The Penn State men's tennis team had been dominant lately. It had a 9-3 record and had won four-straight matches by a combined score of 25-3. As it moved outdoors to the new Sarni Tennis Center, it was ready to bulldoze through its Big Ten schedule.

Not so fast.

The No. 68 Nittany Lions (9-5, 1-2 Big Ten) hit a brick wall this past weekend in their Sarni debut. The Lions were dominated 5-2 by Purdue on Saturday, and lost a heartbreaker the next day against Indiana, 4-3.

The warm weather allowed the Lions to move outdoors, hosting the Boilermakers and the Hoosiers in style at the new center that boasts seven lighted courts, a fully-furnished clubhouse, and an impressive centre court, named after university benefactors John & Nancy Steimer.

Against No. 47 Purdue, the Lions dropped two of three doubles matches. The No. 2 doubles team of junior Jeffrey Martini and sophomore Damon Accardi had a 5-2 lead before losing six straight games to lose 8-5. The Lions' sole win came at No. 3 doubles, as senior Mike Griesser and sophomore Marc McCallister out-dueled the Boilermaker duo of Jason Marshall and Derek Miller, 8-5.

"We (Griesser and McCallister) played pretty well in doubles," Griesser said. "I'm happy how we performed.

"Singles was another story."

Griesser, the Lions No. 1 singles player, won the first point against Purdue's Derek Myers. It was all downhill from there, as Myers dominated at centre court to win the match (6-3, 6-2).

"I played a great player," Griesser said. "It was one of those days; he played better than me. You can't expect to play poorly and win against a player like that."

The rest of the team fared no better, as the top four singles players all lost their matches. Freshman Jamie Gresh and McCallister supplied the only Lions' wins at No. 5 and 6 singles, respectively.

"I was consistent," Gresh said. "I hustled a lot, and worked hard for every point."

The Lions returned for redemption yesterday to host No. 58 Indiana. The Hoosiers were coming off a big win in Baton Rouge, La., against No. 28 LSU. They came into Happy Valley with much confidence, but after the Lions swept the three doubles matches, Penn State seemed poised for the upset.

The Lions fell into trouble as senior Eric Meditz lost (6-2, 6-2) on centre court against George McGill at No. 3 singles. Griesser lost his second match of the weekend (6-2, 6-1) against Indiana's Ian Arons, and Gresh ended a four-match winning streak with an upsetting loss (7-6, 6-4) to Milan Rakvica at No. 4 singles.

Doing his best to help the team out, junior Marc Dorfman showed up with an inspiring effort to overpower (6-4, 6-4) Gabriel Montilla at No. 2 singles.

"I played more aggressive," Dorfman said. "I was fighting really hard, and playing intense. Most of the time, if you put those two together, you get a win."

Later, McCallister won again at No. 6 singles (6-3, 3-6, 6-2), this time against Rahman Smiley to tie the match at 3. It all came down to Martini at No. 5 singles. Martini and Paul Jacobson dueled to a virtual tie in the third set, tied at five games apiece, before Jacobson hit the shots to put Martini away and win the match for the Hoosiers.

"Martini played a smart match," Penn State coach Jan Bortner said. "He had very good strategy, (Jacobson) just came up with big shots to beat him. But Martini didn't get in fast enough in the last game. If he gets in quicker, and shows more speed, he gets into the tiebreaker, and anything can happen."

Bortner was quick to end any questions about overconfidence.

"There was no overconfidence," Bortner said. "Except for Gresh, they know how tough the Big Ten is. They knew what to expect. The veterans are too worried about the younger guys. They have to worry about themselves."

Despite a disappointing weekend, Bortner was enthusiastic about the move outside.

"This is what college tennis is all about," Bortner said. "The crowd was into it. Someone came up to me and said, 'This is one nice place to watch a tennis match.' "

The Lions return to action next weekend as they travel to Michigan for matches against Michigan State on Saturday and Michigan on Sunday.

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Updated: Sunday, March 28, 1999  9:50:20 PM  -4
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