Tomorrow is the 2015 home opener for No. 59 Michigan State men’s tennis, as they take on University of Toledo and University of Detroit — both who do not crack the Top 75 rankings.
But the lower rankings does not mean it will be an easy task, according to head coach Gene Orlando.
“These teams may not have the rankings like a Duke or a Georgia, but this weekend for these two teams is a championship weekend,” Orlando said. “It’s Superbowl weekend and this is kind of like their Superbowl…everyone wants the success that we’ve had and it’s a measure mark for them.”
Senior Harry Jadun agreed with Orlando and noted the previous matches with the two teams.
“My sophomore year, they had us on the ropes a little bit,” Jadun recalled. “It might not be Duke or North Carolina State or Georgia, but these teams have chips on their shoulder. These teams are very dangerous.”
The tough teams that Jadun complimented were the Spartans downside over the last two weekends. Michigan State dropped to Duke and North Carolina two weekends ago and lost to No. 8 Georgia, 4-1, last weekend.
Following the Georgia game, the guys knew there was pressure heading into the Elon game, as they did not want to start off 2015 going 0-4 against highly-ranked teams. And that’s where senior Harry Jadun was vocal off the court.
“After Georgia match, we had a team meeting and it was right after I just woke up from a nap, Jadun recalled. “And I was really grumpy because I lost my match really badly 6-2, 6-3…I didn’t play my best and I woke up and told them ‘I’m tired of talking. I want to go out there and I want our actions to speak and metaphorically punch those guys in the face.’”
And that’s exactly what the Spartans did, as they pounced on then No. 55 Elon, 4-0.
Orlando attributed the win to consistent play from senior leadership and a sense of urgency. Although they are playing lower-ranked teams this week, Orlando wants the guys to come out with the same intensity.
“Keeping that level is something we have to try to aspire for every single time,” he explained. “To create that energy is sometimes tough. You have to be pushed…backed against the wall to get that kind of energy and intensity. Playing a bigger match may fuel it, but it’s a responsibility of the leaders.”
MSU will be without John Patrick Mullane, who is a doubles partner of Jadun. He has been day-to-day over the last week due to shoulder tendinitis, which was aggravated several weeks back in North Carolina.
But Jadun is not worried about not having his doubles partner by his side and looks forward to the test without him.
“I’m excited about it. It gives the younger guys a chance,” Jadun said. “It tests us with a little bit of adversity early…It’s kind of the kick in the butt that has to light the fire under our butts.”
Michigan State opens with Toledo at 12 p.m. and then takes on Detroit at 6 p.m. in the Indoor Tennis Facilities, located in the southern part of campus.
Detroit is led by head coach and former Spartan Grant Asher, who was an all-big ten player as a Spartan in 1992.
Alex Scharg is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Anthony Serafino