Sophomore Adrian Sirovica, left, and senior Kyle Richter, right, played three games in two days at the Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter, South Carolina (above).
Sophomore Adrian Sirovica, left, and senior Kyle Richter, right, played three games in two days at the Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter, South Carolina (above).

Men’s tennis teammates Kyle Richter and Adrian Sirovica anticipated tough competition last week at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Small College Championships in Sumter, South Carolina. Some of the top Division III doubles teams in the nation attended, but Richter felt the pair was well prepared.

“Working on doubles last week before we came with our team and then playing the ITA a couple weeks ago was great preparation in itself,” Richter said.

But after three competitive losses, the Slugs fell to last place. The first came on Thursday, when Richter and Sirovica lost their first-round doubles match to No. 4 seed University of Chicago, 6-4, 6-2. Despite losing their chance at the championship, head coach Mike Napoli liked what he saw.

“We played a very good team, they were ranked in the top eight [in ITA national rankings] and took it right to us,” Napoli said. “They were very aggressive.”

Though Richter and Sirovica had an early exit to the championship bracket, they were guaranteed two more matches in the consolation bracket, which determined 5th-8th place in the tournament.

Next for the pair on Thursday was No. 1 seed Amherst College, whose double team was upset in the first round by Trinity University’s unranked pair Adam Krull and Matt Tyler. Richter and Sirovica made a strong push to take the first set 7-5. But Amherst came back to win the second 6-2, and in a ten-point tiebreaker for the third set, the Slugs could only match half the points and lost the set 10-5.

“Between matches we didn’t really talk a lot,” Sirovica said. “We knew what we needed to do, it was just how to execute it. But we talked a good amount on the court.”

On Friday, the pair took on No. 3 seed University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Falling behind early in the second set helped to fire up the Slugs, who claimed the next set 7-6. Ultimately the duo was unable to win the tiebreaker in the third set, leaving them with an 8th place finish.

“The tournament was a tough competition, but it was nice to play some of the best doubles teams in the country,” Sirovica said. “The most difficult match would have to be the last one, I had trouble with my serve and it was hard for us to generate a lot of energy on the court.”

Sirovica said long travel periods make it difficult for student-athletes to get work done on the road, causing them to often fall behind in their classes.

“I miss a bunch of school, so I schedule make-ups for exams and maybe get additional time on some assignments,” Richter said. “Most teachers, however, offer zero help. A lot of times they don’t even allow me to make up work, even when I talk to them about how I’m an athlete representing the school.”

The athletes only had some down time after the tournament games to focus on academics — even after switching hotels every night, which they were forced to do because nearly every hotel in the area was booked.

The strain of travel even hit coach Napoli. He called the 11-hour trip arduous, but remains positive about his players and his staff’s ability to perform on and off the court.

“Wins and losses come and go, but it is how we represented ourselves that I’m most proud of, ” Napoli said.