It’s safe to assume that the Idaho State University men’s tennis team agrees with the mantra Dorothy repeats in the Wizard of Oz as she taps her ruby-red slippers together: there’s no place like home.
After starting the season off winning just two total points in their first three matches, all lopsided road losses, the Bengals have triumphed in three consecutive home matches, bringing their record to 3-3 on the season.
The three February contests against the University of Utah Utes, Montana State Bobcats and Montana Grizzlies, which were lost by Idaho State 0-7, 1-6 and 1-6, respectively, looked to indicate another lackluster season was in the cards for the Bengals, who went 5-12 last year overall, and 2-7 in the Big Sky Conference.
A return to the Gate City and two triumphs in close matches have given the team and its fans a renewed sense of optimism.
The streak began March 7 in Chubbuck at the brand-new tennis courts at Capell Park, where the Bengals took on conference foe Eastern Washington.
The Bengals earned the doubles point, which is earned by winning at least two out of the three doubles matches played.
Sophomore team Daniel Loebel and Bjorn Scheepbouwer defeated the team of Robert Dula and Eduardo Martinez 6-2 in game one.
The team of Krzysztof Stempien and Josh Goodwin downed Vuk Vuckovic and Luke Thompson 6-2 in game two of the doubles matches to clinch the victory.
Loebel and Stempien carried over their success in doubles to the singles ranks, as they captured games one and two of the singles competition for the Bengals in straight sets. Scheepbouwer downed Martinez in game three, 6-2, 6-1, to clinch the fourth straight point for the Bengals as well as the match.
The Eagles won the last three, making the contest look closer than it actually was, as the Bengals had already clinched the victory.
Six days later, the Bengals returned to Capell Park to do battle the Portland State Vikings.
As was the case in their previous match, the teams of Loebel and Scheepbouwer, and Stempien and Goodwin took the first two games of the doubles competition, clinching the doubles point for the Bengals.
This match, however, wasn’t as smooth sailing on the singles side of things.
Loebel and Stempien lost games one and two, respectively, to leave the Bengals at a 2-1 deficit. Scheepbouwer knotted the match up at 2-2 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Portland State’s Matt Pronesti.
Goodwin put ISU on the hill with a 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Brent Wheeler, and the Bengals looked to freshman Orin Duffin to clinch the victory. Duffin battled Austin Miller in a close first set, ultimately triumphing 7-6. Duffin then slugged out another tough set with Miller and won 6-4, taking the game and sealing the victory for the Bengals.
The Bengals were back at it the very next day at Capell Park, this time taking on the University of North Dakota.
While this matchup lacked the drama of the previous bout against Portland State, that couldn’t have bothered the Bengals much, as they cruised to a 7-0 victory over North Dakota, losing only two sets in the entirety of the contest.
The one point of uncertainty in the match came in match three of the singles competition, with the Bengals holding a commanding 3-0 lead.
Scheepbouwer engaged in a slugfest with UND’s David Bergstrom.
After Scheepbouwer won the first set 6-2, Bergstrom took the next set 7-6. The final set went to a tiebreaker, with Scheepbouwer at last prevailing by a 10-8 score.
The Bengals will be back on the road March 20 against Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah.
The two teams will meet again the next day, but in an unusual twist, it will be in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The two match-ups against the Thunderbirds will be the first two of five consecutive days of matches for Idaho State, the final four of which will be held in Las Vegas.