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Lopers down Jets after a delayed takeoff

Melisa Becerra and Adam Palecek during the matches against Newman Thursday.

The UNK men’s tennis team were the first ones in and the last ones out after they defeated Newman, 4-3, in their first outdoor match of the season.

Before the dual could even begin however, the Lopers had to overcome some adversity.

“Going into the day the priority long established was that I need the men to play a match outdoors,” said coach Scott Shafer. “So, there was a huge scramble to try to make that happen.”

The scramble started when the Lopers arrived at the courts Thursday morning. There, they were greeted by slick, snowy and flooded courts at Harmon Park. They quickly got to work to clear the courts of any water and snow, a process that took a few hours.

Luckily, with the help of the team and by delaying the start time, the Lopers were able to get their first dual of the weekend underway.

The Lopers started slow and would drop the doubles point, falling at the No. 1 and 3 spot to give Newman the early, 1-0, advantage.

UNK would answer back in singles, with Adam Palecek winning at No. 1 singles in a three-set thriller while Jip Mens and Jakub Strzelecki got wins at No. 3 and 5 to keep things knotted, 3-3, as Newman won at No. 2 and 4.

“That’s the fun part of my job,” Shafer said. “Helping them through those moments and Adam pulling through like he did, it was really important today because the match would’ve been over if he lost.”

Shafer would have to help one more of his players through battle before his night was over. As the nightcap had freshman Andy Brisdon facing off against Newman’s Andrea Bramati with the dual on the line.

Brisdon took the first set with ease, downing Bramati, 6-0. After that, the pair would go back-and-forth in a lengthy and intense second set. In the end, it was Brisdon who would walk away with a 7-5 victory in set two, winning the match and the dual for the Lopers.

In a day full of stressors and adversity, coach Shafer hopes his team can use it as a lesson in Friday’s match and beyond.

“Emporia knows how important tomorrow is,” Shafer said. “It’s going to be interesting and hopefully today gave them another step towards maturity.”

The Lopers improve to 10-6 on the year and 2-1 in MIAA play. One more win against a MIAA opponent would qualify UNK for the MIAA conference tournament. The Lopers will get their first chance to qualify against the No. 47 ranked Hornets of Emporia State on Friday March 29 at Harmon Park.

Meanwhile at the Ernest Grundy Tennis Center, the No. 22 UNK women handled business against Newman for their first MIAA win of the season, 6-1.

After originally being scheduled outdoors, the dual was moved inside and the start time was changed because only three of the six courts at Harmon Park were playable to start the day.

“It was a very crazy start,” said senior Melisa Becerra. “Of course, it doesn’t happen every day, but we were all able to adapt pretty quickly.”

Becerra and Narindra Ranaivo won at No. 2 doubles while Jazmin Zamorano and Masha Hatouka won at No. 3 to give UNK the doubles point to begin the day.

In singles action, Newman picked up a win at No. 1 singles by winning two of the three sets played in that spot. However, those two sets would be all Newman would win as a team, as UNK won in straight sets in each of the other five singles matches to cruise to their 6-1 victory over Newman. Their first MIAA win of the season.

After a day full of uncertainty and adapting on the fly, the Lopers believe this dual showed how prepared UNK is for the rest of their season.

“It’s a really good way to prove to the other teams that we are ready,” Becerra said. “Even though they probably don’t know the behind-the-scenes of what happened today.”

The Loper women improve to 10-3 on the season and 1-0 in MIAA play. They will take on Emporia State March 29 at Harmon Park in their second MIAA matchup of the season.

Photos by Traeton Harimon / Antelope Staff

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Traeton Harimon
Traeton Harimon, Sports Editor
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