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Sophomore Justin Hyman went undefeated in singles this weekend, overcoming both of his oppponents from McKendree and Illinois-Springfield. (Photo: Kadie Lowery / Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College men’s tennis team split two road matches in southern Illinois last weekend. 

The Chargers fell to McKendree University 5-4 Friday evening, before overcoming Illinois-Springfield on Saturday afternoon 6-3. 

“We were hoping to come out 2-0 this weekend, but it was a close match,” head coach Keith Turner said. “I was happy with how my guys competed, showing good sportsmanship, even when others didn’t.” 

On Friday, Hillsdale started 0-3 in doubles, but nearly came back, winning four singles matches, three of which required tiebreaker games.

Freshman Charlie Adams won a marathon match 6-4, 7-5, 7-6, and 7-4, which lasted nearly three hours at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Jerry Hewitt also forced a tiebreaker win at No. 6 singles 6-4, 7-6, and 8-6. 

Freshman Milan Mirkovic is recovering from a finger injury, but managed a win at No. 3 singles. Mirkovik and freshman Julien Clouette as a duo were defeated, however, 8-4 in doubles. 

Mirkovic will take a few rest days, and will hopefully be at 100 percent for next week’s matches, according to Turner. 

“Mirkovic fought his way through doubles and singles, and really helped out the team,” said Clouette.

Justin Hyman won at No. 2 singles 6-1, 6-1. After the weekend’s performance, Hyman said he can see improvement in his teammates. 

“Our scores for both matches this year were better than last year’s,” Hyman said. “We’ve definitely improved, we just need to work on our doubles more.”

Junior Dugan Delp was defeated at No. 4 singles, 6-2, 6-3 while sophomore John Ciraci was defeated at No. 5 singles 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Hillsdale went on to topple Illinois-Springfield University 6-3 on Saturday, nearly shutting out the Prairie Stars in singles competition. 

The Chargers trailed 2-1 after doubles, with Mirkovic and Clouette teaming up at No. 3 doubles to provide the Charger’s lone doubles win 8-2. 

From there, Hillsdale battled back, winning five singles matches. 

Adams was victorious at No. 1 singles 6-4, 6-3, while Hyman powered to a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles. Mirkovic scored his second win of the day with a 6-2, 6-0 victory at No. 3 singles. Ciraci battled his way to a 7-6, 6-3 win at No. 5 singles. Clouette went undefeated on the day, shining in a 7-6, 6-1 win at No. 6 singles. 

Clouette said he was satisfied with singles play, but that the team put too much pressure on singles to win matches.

“We responded well in singles, however, we need to improve our doubles — we have only won one of our last four doubles matches. Losing all three doubles is unthinkable against a good team. Doubles makes the difference during close games,” Clouette said. “Last weekend’s matches were against top teams with great players — we can’t be disappointed. We are happier with this weekend, even if we didn’t win both matches.”

Turner plans to test new doubles duos in practice this week. 

The Chargers, now 4-4, will face West Liberty University in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where they will also compete with Fairmont State University and Kutztown University during spring break, chasing a regional ranking and a .500 season. 

Though the Chargers have been performing well at singles, Turner has planned a “dramatic overhaul” for doubles play in preparation for their spring break matches. 

“Justin Hyman and Charlie Adams have played as well as anyone in the region,” Turner said. “Our overall singles performance has been fantastic this year. We are going to change our doubles, though. Returning from break 3-0 would be a big confidence boost for the remaining season.”