BY ADAM ROGAN
The Drake men’s tennis team’s losing streak has now grown to three.
It started with a near upset of Cornell University, now ranked 24th in the nation, but has continued with close losses to unranked opponents.
The Bulldogs nearly swept the singles points against the University of Denver Pioneers, but a doubles point loss and three blown leads gave the team victory to Denver.
Sophomore Tom Hands and junior Bayo Philips each won in two sets take the lead. Sophomore Vinny Gillespie came back from a set down to give the Bulldogs a match point. It was the first set Gillespie has dropped in nearly a month and only the second three-setter he’s finished since October 2016.
From there on out, no Bulldog would win a set. Junior Calum MacGeoch, freshman Barny Thorold and junior Ben Stride all lost in three sets after all winning their respective first set.
The next match, the next day against the University of California, Santa Barbara, started similarly. Drake lost the doubles point, but bounced back to take a 3-2 lead in singles.
Gillespie had lost his first set in a tiebreaker, but battled back to a 6-4 win in set two. But he lost the momentum quickly in the third set. He won only one game in it and allowed the match to get tied back up again.
Thorold had kept it close it every set, losing the first 7-5 but winning the second 6-7, but wasn’t able to come away with the win in the end. He lost the set 6-4.
The loss dropped Thorold to 5-14 in his freshman campaign and the Bulldogs to 12-11 on the season.
At this point in the season, this is the worst record the Bulldogs have had since 2005, long before Davidson Kozlowski took over head coaching duties in September 2012.
A Drake return to the nation’s top 50 is also less likely now. The team hasn’t been ranked since the second week of March. Santa Barbara’s win, however, moved them up to 49th.
Not only did Gillespie’s loss contribute to Drake’s team defeat, but it also snapped a six-match win streak for the sophomore.
His last loss had come on March 10 during a 4-0 loss to the University of Michigan.
Nonetheless, Gillespie still holds the best record on the team with 16 wins and just three losses in 2017, every match coming on the first court. Hands is the only other player with a record above .500. He’s 13-6.
The Bulldogs have just three matches remaining before the Missouri Valley Conference Championship, scheduled for the end of the month. Drake is set to host conference opponents Southern Illinois University and Illinois State University for an April 8 doubleheader.