In its return to court after 15 days off, the Villanova men’s tennis team lost against Lehigh, 5-2.
The Wildcats find themselves in a tough spot at this point in the season. However, there remain both positives and negatives from the match at the weekend.
To start, Villanova continues to be without sophomore Eitan Khromchenko, due to an injury that has held him out of match play since early February. During his freshman year, Khromchenko tallied 10 singles wins on the season and began this spring at # 3 in the singles lineup.
As a result of Khromchenko’s absence, Coach Brad Adams has tinkered with the lineup over the past matches. Following a dominant 6-1 win over Coppin State at the end of February, Villanova embarked on a road journey to California for four matches over five days. The lineups shifted throughout the gauntlet, with nine different players taking up different spots in the singles lineup.
“Unfortunately, Eitan has a wrist injury to his dominant hand,” Adams said. “There is a 50-50 chance he is going to be able to make an appearance the rest of the season. Obviously, that’s a huge loss for us. “
While the Wildcats struggled against high-level opponents, the young team gained some needed experience against some of the best players it will see all season. Freshman Trey Fourticq, who has usually played at the # 2 spot, faced off in his first-ever match at the top of the lineup, a place he may soon take up in the coming seasons. Junior Will Gatti made his competitive season debut against UC Irvine, a player who may need to step up as a result of the team’s inconsistency.
Lehigh marked the team’s last non-conference opponent before Big East play. Sitting at 2-8 before Sunday’s match, the Wildcats entered the day needing to rediscover match form. While failing to pick up the win, Villanova emerged from the day with a few reasons to maintain optimism.
Adams ‘squad managed to secure the doubles point on the day, a rare high point that deserves praise among the greater context of the doubles’ performance throughout the season. The Wildcats have picked up the doubles point only once during this season. At times, a single doubles pairing has notched a win, but rarely has the team come together cohesively.
Against Lehigh, senior Matthew Jones and junior Justin Suarez secured the # 2 doubles match, while the duo of sophomore Anthony Prokurat and Fourticq won their match at the # 3 spot. The former pairing played its first-ever competitive match as a team, potentially indicating a fruitful partnership in the future. However, the composition of the doubles lineup is all but written in stone.
“I think it’s going to be fluid, accepting the fact that Eitan is probably not going to be coming back in the near future,” Adams said of the doubles lineup. “We need to find guys that mesh together both with their rapport and also their games on the court.”
As is the structure of college tennis matches, the doubles point precedes the singles matches. Thus, there is a tone-setting significance to the doubles point that emphasizes its importance to the team. Although Villanova failed to take home the match overall, positive performances in these doubles teams present an encouraging sign as the team heads into the second half of the season.
While the singles matches let down the performance from the doubles teams, Fourticq found himself as the one highlight for the Wildcats. Winning at the # 3 spot in a third set tiebreak, Fourticq emerged as a victor in both singles and doubles on the day.
“In singles, I think he is still trying to find himself,” Adams said of Fourticq’s performance. “He is still trying to find his game of him. I think he did a very good job bouncing back from a set down, playing a more aggressive style, taking time away from his opponent and controlling the point from the get-go. Even without wins, I think his confidence of him has grown each match. “
The talent is undeniable, as he has played high in the lineup all year, but the performance had yet to match the expectations. Adams had expressed some concerns about consistency in earlier matches, so winning tight matches like these provides the necessary experience to strengthen Fourticq’s performances going forward.
Villanova will hope to translate these positive takeaways into greater success next weekend against Xavier, a team that has won four of their last five matches and boasts a mix of youth and experience. The teams face off this Friday, March 25 at 1:30 pm in Cincinnati.