Men’s tennis limps into conference play

A bruised and battered Butler men’s tennis team fell to the Green Bay Phoenix Saturday, 6-1.

Senior Bryce Warren, in action for the first time since March 6, teamed with senior Chris Herron to pick up a win at No. 1 doubles, 8-7. Senior Brandon Bayliss also won for the Bulldogs (4-11, 1-1 HL), taking the No. 1 singles point, 7-5, 6-4.

“When healthy, we have the best doubles team in the conference,” head coach Jason Suscha said. “We can compete against any team in the league.”

Staying healthy has been a problem for the Bulldogs this season.

Warren, who has been battling a back injury for the past month, was unable to play singles on Saturday, even after winning at doubles. He expects to be completely healthy by the Horizon League Championship Tournament, which begins April 22.

Junior Stephen McLoughlin has been out of action with an elbow injury since Jan. 22.

“He hasn’t been cleared to serve,” Suscha said. “It’s tough because we are watching him cream shots from the baseline, but he just can’t play.”

Suscha hopes McLoughlin can return by the April 16 match against Valparaiso so he can get a full week of playing time in before the conference tournament gets underway.

The Bulldogs won’t get much time to rest and recuperate.

Beginning Saturday against Youngstown State, Butler will play six matches in an eight-day span.

Junior Zach Ervin, who lost at No. 3 singles to Green Bay, 7-6, 6-3, is confident that the squad can overcome the tough stretch.

“We won’t mind all the matches in the short amount of time,” Ervin said. “Playing matches is way more fun than practicing.”

In the meantime, a few unfamiliar faces are getting significant playing time.

Since McLoughlin’s injury, walk-on senior David Dolins has been filling in at the No. 6 singles spot.

Freshman Brad DiCarlo has also seen more court time, including the March 19 contest versus Detroit in which he recorded the match-clinching win.

“We have a lot of confidence in the guys filling in,” Ervin said.

Dolins teamed with Ervin at No. 3 doubles against Green Bay, losing 8-4. Dolins also lost at No. 5 singles, 6-2, 6-1. DiCarlo fell at No. 6 singles, 6-0, 6-4.

The Bulldogs need to finish sixth or better in the Horizon League in order to qualify for the Horizon League tournament.

Butler currently sits at fifth place in the conference, ahead of Detroit, Youngstown State and Valparaiso. The Bulldogs defeated Detroit  March 19 and will play the latter two teams within the next week.

“Against Green Bay, we made some mental errors that made the match tougher for us,” Suscha said. “We just need to work on getting healthy and limiting mental mistakes.”

Butler will begin a seven-match homestand on Saturday against Youngstown State.

The Bulldogs will then play conference leader Cleveland State Sunday, followed by matches Tuesday and Wednesday against  Horizon League opponents Wright State and Ball State, respectively.

“We are as good as any team in the conference when healthy,” Ervin said. “Even if we aren’t healthy, we are going to go out there and battle.

“We can stack up with anybody.”

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