Coming off a 10 day break following a 5-2 loss to then-No. 12 Baylor, the Purdue men's tennis convincingly lost its first Big Ten match of the season against rival Indiana, falling 5-0 with the last two matches going unfinished.
The last time one of the two teams beat the other on their home court was 2012, when Indiana beat Purdue. In 2015, the Hoosiers knocked the Boilers out of the Big Ten tournament when they faced off at Illinois.
In the doubles hour, Purdue (3-6, 0-1 Big Ten) lost the second and third pairings matches, forcing senior Gergely Madarasz and sophomore Athell Bennett to end their match at 5-5. The duo has been paired all season and garnered a No. 44 rank in the nation.
Madarasz, the No. 61 ranked singles player in the country, is the only current player to have faced Indiana (5-4, 1-0 Big Ten) at home, as the current sophomores traveled to Bloomington in last year's matchup.
With five of the six singles matches featuring Purdue underclassmen, the team's only leader has been Madarasz. However, freshman Maksymilian Raupuk has been climbing in the depth chart, and has moved up to the No. 3 spot recently.
"I think Maks is getting to that point," head coach Pawel Gajdzik said. "He's moving up in the line up and he was competitive today, played the guy that has a pretty good record. I see his game improving tremendously over the past few weeks, and I think if he listens and follows that path, he's going to be really good for us."
One of the five freshman playing singles is newcomer Mateo Julio. He joined the program four weeks ago while the team was in Texas facing off against Florida State, and played his first match on the second trip to Texas, facing off against Baylor. Last night was his first home match as a Boiler, getting a taste of the rivalry against Indiana.
As the youthful team experiences speed bumps and growing pains, they become learning experiences for a team with a high ceiling.
"That nucleus is going to stay for several years, which is very exciting," Gajdzik said. "These guys are going to grow up together from day one. By the time they're juniors and seniors, I think it's going to be a very scary team that's going to compete for pretty good goals. We aren't giving up on them this year. We have a long season ahead of us, and we're just going to stay the course, get better and get those W's."
While the stands were more packed last night, notably in attendance was Jeff Brohm, head coach of the football team, and Mike Bobinski, Purdue's athletic director. Brohm, a regular at IU–Purdue rivalry games also attended the women's basketball game against IU on February 12 in Mackey Arena.
"I'm a big sports fan, so I've always liked all different types of sports," Brohm said. "I think me just getting here and getting around and watching and supporting as many sports as I can is fun for me. I like to go to basketball, baseball, softball, tennis. And any time Purdue plays IU its a good opportunity to see a competitive match."
As the major sports have improved, the smaller programs have felt a ripple effect of better recruits, facilities and coaches. Brohm noted that each team benefits off success from the others.
"(Purdue sports teams) all tie together. Football, when we got here, we felt like we needed to pick it up and try to get on pace with some of the other sports. I think that when one team's doing well and you bring in recruits and they get to watch not only the athletes perform, but the support they get from the community, normally good things happen."
The support wasn't immediately noticed by Gajdzik, however the appearance meant a lot to the head coach who is in a rebuilding year with such a young team.
"Having (Bobinski) in the stands, it means a lot," Gajdzik said. "It means that this program is on his radar. It means he wants to do well. Having Coach Brohm making his way to tennis obviously shows that there is an interest for everybody in this athletic (department). It's a big family where everybody supports everybody."
The Boilers will take a break from conference play until late March. The team hosts a double header this Saturday, facing Green Bay at 1 p.m. and Butler at 6 p.m.