The Idaho menâ€™s tennis team enters the final stretch of the regular season ranked third in the Big Sky standings with a 6-2 conference record.
The Vandals possess an 12-5 overall record, trailing Sacramento State and Weber State in the conference standings.
In doubles play, chemistry is a crucial component. A team must win two of the three doubles matches in order to earn a point.
The duo of senior Odon Barta and sophomore Felipe Fonseca has established a chemistry that has proven to challenge opponents.
The pair have played together in doubles for two years. They first united this season during a match on Feb. 6, defeating Kent Andreasen and Carlos Donat 7-5.
The pair then won five out of their next six matches. However, as Idaho struggled to dethrone nationally ranked BYU and Utah State, both athletes fell in doubles matches.
Barta and Fonseca lost 6-2 to BYUâ€™s Jeremy Bourgeois and Keaton Cullimore and Utah Stateâ€™s Jonas Maier and Jack Swindells 6-4 the following day.
The duo is now 9-6 overall this season and 5-3 in conference play.
Barta said the tempo in doubles play is faster than in singles.
â€œIn doubles, we play faster points and shorter rallies,â€ Barta said. â€œWhereas in singles, an opponent should focus on putting a lot of balls back and puts a lot of pressure on our confidence. It shows us that weâ€™re not giving up points and thatâ€™s just a different mindset we have in singles.â€
Barta said the styles of singles and doubles competition are distinctly separate.
â€œIn doubles, we look to attack and approach the net and hit our shots with our volleys,â€ Barta said. â€œWhereas in singles, you try to open the court and push our openings off the court and look for the shorter ball where we can approach.â€
Fonseca, a sophomore from Brazil, said the two have been working on staying consistent.
â€œWe need to (score) more balls,â€ Fonseca said. â€œWhen we played BYU and Utah State, we were really close and had the chance to win both matches. If we made two or three more balls during the match, we couldâ€™ve won the point in doubles. We need to make more balls at a constant level and stay solid.â€
Barta, a Hungarian native, said the matches provided a good learning experience for the pair.
â€œIt was definitely another level,â€ Barta said. â€œWe came out really slow and both teams stepped up from the beginning. It was just too late to come back, but thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve been focusing on. We have to come out each game and start very hard from the beginning.â€
Despite the recent shortcomings against non-conference opponents, Fonseca said the two adapt to the othersâ€™ playing style in Big Sky competition.
â€œOdon has complimented my game and heâ€™s been solid throughout the season,â€ Fonseca said. â€œOdon is better at the net and Iâ€™m better on the baseline, which makes it hard for our opponents because they donâ€™t know what to do. Itâ€™s really hard for our opponents to beat us.â€
Barta said his partnership with Fonseca has been incredibly beneficial.
â€œI feel confident with Felipe playing at the baseline,â€ Barta said. â€œWe both make a great team because heâ€™s solid from the baseline and keeps the ball going forward as it approaches the net, while Iâ€™m more of a hard hitter.â€
Fonseca said the importance of doubles increases during pivotal matches.
â€œIf you begin singles with one point (from doubles), it makes it easier to win crucial matches,â€ Fonseca said. â€œEspecially in doubles. Odon and I are very solid at doing our jobs. Not only us, but all the other guys as well.â€
The Vandals will host Big Sky rival Eastern Washington at noon Wednesday at the Memorial Gym Courts.
Luis Torres can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TheLTFiles