By ERIN O’BOYLE
The Drake men’s tennis team was traveling throughout the West coast. Before the craziness began, senior Tom Hands commented saying, “We feel good going into spring break, we know we have our work cut out for us with 6 matches in 8 days.We know all the teams are going to be tough, so no one team sticks out right now.” To start off their 8 days of tennis, the Bulldogs squared up against the University of Tulsa on Saturday, March 16th in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Unlike the rest of their season so far, the Bulldogs changed their line-up slightly with a move at No. 1 singles. Nationally ranked No. 78 Tom Hands of the Bulldogs, went up against the No. 52 nationally ranked Tulsa player in the No. 1 singles position that is usually occupied by Drake’s Vinny Gillespie who is No. 57 in the national rankings. This switch seemed to play to the Bulldogs advantage since Hands battled long and hard against his opponent at ended up winning a singles point for the Bulldogs. However, this was the only match in the singles bracket that the Drake men’s tennis was able to claim. The doubles competition was also not of staggering success as the Bulldogs fell to Tulsa in No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, and left No. 3 doubles unfinished.
After a hard loss in Oklahoma, the Drake men’s tennis team traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to face the University of New Mexico on Monday, March 18. With Vinny Gillespie back at No. 1 singles, he lost to his opponent in the first set 6-7 decided by a tiebreak that the University of New Mexico player won 7-5. However, Gillespie came back to clench the second set in an impressive score of 6-0. In the third set that would be the decider, Gillespie won 7-6 because of yet another tiebreaker that he ended up winning in a score of 7-5, thus allowing him to clench a point for the Bulldogs. At No. 4 singles, junior Barnaby Thorold won both sets that were both decided by a tiebreaker. His first set score was 7-6, with a tiebreaker score of 7-4 that allowed him the first set victory. The second set score was again 7-6 with a tiebreaker of 7-3 that allowed him to secure the win. Calum MacGeoch at No. 6 singles was the third Bulldog to win his match in set scores of 6-4 and 6-1. No. 2, 3 and 5 singles all fell to New Mexico. In the doubles competition, No. 1 doubles pairing of Bayo Phillips and Thorold were victorious with a 7-6 set score that was determined by the tiebreaker that came out to 7-4. No. 3 doubles team Hands and MacGeoch also won their match in an impressive score of 6-0. When all was finished, the final match came out to 4-1 Bulldogs.
With a 1-1 record during spring break at that point, and a day to rest on the road the Bulldogs arrived in Tucson, Arizona to take on the University of Arizona. As with the University of Tulsa, the singles line-up was slightly altered with Hands at No. 1 singles and Gillespie at No. 2 singles. Although this switch seemed to work against Tulsa, the same can’t be said for Arizona. No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 singles all lost and No. 3, No. 5, and No. 6 singles were all left unfinished. The doubles competition didn’t look much better, with No. 1 and No. 3 doubles both losing and No.2 left unfinished in a tied set of 5-5. In the end, the Bulldogs left Tucson empty handed with a 0-4 loss and a season record of 14-9.
Now with a 1-2 spring break record, the Bulldogs headed into the San Diego Spring Classic Tournament that began on March 22nd in San Diego, California.
Their first match of the tournament was against nationally ranked No. 49 Tulane. Again, Hands took over No. 1 singles, but ultimately lost. Gillespie, in the No. 2 singles spot, was more fortunate with both sets scores of 6-3 that allowed him the win. Calum MacGeoch at No. 5 singles was the only other Bulldog to claim a win against Tulane in the singles department. MacGeoch won in set scores of 6-2 and 6-3. Ben Clark was looking like he might be able to pull out the win at No. 6 singles, but ultimately the game was left unfinished. In doubles, Philips and Thorold were able to clench the win at No. 1 doubles in a set score of 6-3. Despite these wins, the Bulldogs fell to Tulane in a match score of 2-4.
The next day the Bulldogs faced off against San Diego State to finish off their spring break tournament. Gillespie returned to No. 1 singles and fought the good fight with a loss in the first set, a win in the second set, and was in the middle of the third set when the match was called off and left unfinished. Along with Gillespie, MacGeoch at No. 4 singles also left his match unfinished with a win in the first set, a loss in the second, and pulling ahead in the third set before it was called off. San Diego State had a major sweep through the rest of the singles matches with the Bulldogs losing in No. 2, No.3, No. 4, No.5, and No. 6 singles. However, the Bulldogs did manage to secure the doubles point for the match by wins at No. 1 doubles consisting of Phillips and Thorold who won in a set score of 6-3, and No. 2 doubles consisting of Gillespie and Clark who won in a set score of 6-1. No. 3 doubles team Finley Hall and MacGeoch were behind 3-4 in their set when they stopped play and their match was categorized as unfinished. The Bulldogs walked away with a 1-4 loss and an overall season total of 14-11.
When asked how all the travel affected the overall team performance,
“Traveling and playing a match does affect things,” Hands said. “This week was something else, I think that being on the road so much made it difficult to settle and feel particularly comfortable while playing.”
After a long spring break, full of travel and tough matches, the Bulldogs get a few days off to rest. They travel to Denver, Colorado on Saturday, March 30th to face the University of Denver and then one week later travel to Valparaiso University in Indiana. Both University of Denver and Valparaiso are part of the Summit League that the Bulldogs are also a part of, so these next to games are extremely important in their rankings in the Summit League.