STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Even if the regular season won’t begin until spring, the Men’s Tennis team has not gone on hiatus when it comes to competing.
Incoming freshman Vincent Gillespie, still only 17 years old, won the British Junior Nationals tournament on August 8. Gillespie entered the tournament predicted to win, and he fulfilled that prediction, losing only one set in five matches.
“It was always a tournament I wanted to win, and to get it in my last year under 18 feels great,” Gillespie said. “It gave me great confidence. I’m playing really well and hopefully I can keep that going in college.”
Gillespie went on to win the doubles tournament as well, partnering with fellow 17-year- old Brit Matthew Story.
Gillespie will be the youngest member of a youthful Drake team, featuring three freshmen, four sophomores and just one senior.
Even if the team may appear untested, especially when compared to last year’s 32nd-ranked Bulldogs, head coach Davidson Kozlowski believes that they will be prepared to compete and succeed come spring.
“Vincent brings a lot of experience, a lot of winning experience, to our team,” Kozlowski said. “We’ve brought in a very strong freshmen class.”
Sophomore Calum MacGeoch proved himself last year as a 17-year-old freshman. He won eight of his first 10 collegiate matches and finished the season with a record of 14-6. After several players went down with injury last season MacGeoch received more playing time and was able to fill the role he needed to, showing that youth can still be successful in college tennis.
“This whole team got a lot of confidence in Calum last year as a very young freshman,” Kozlowski
said. “He was forced into play and he responded extremely well and really gained a lot of confidence from his teammates.”
This is a situation that Drake hopes will be replicated with Gillespie and the other two incoming freshmen, Ben Clark and Tom Hands.
“(We have a) very strong class coming in and (are) trying to keep on the winning tradition at Drake,” Kozlowski said.
Hands was the runner-up in the 2014 Junior British Nationals and decided to bring his talents to Drake this year, having taken last season off. Clark is also a lifelong tennis player, ranked among the top 15 players in Great Britain.
“I think our team is looking really good,” MacGeoch said. “We all know each other, we all know each others’ games and we all know how good everyone can be.”
Gillespie wasn’t the only Bulldog to succeed in distinguished tournaments this summer.
On July 11 MacGeoch won the Nike Junior International tournament in his hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. He entered the ITF (International Tennis Federation) tournament ranked second, but managed to upset top-ranked James Davis 7-6, 7-5.
“Considering it was in Edinburgh and it was my last Junior tournament, it was really good for me to win that,” MacGeoch said. “(The) first ITF I ever played was there as well, so to go back and win singles and doubles was pretty special to me.”
MacGeoch teamed up with future teammate Gillespie for the doubles side of the tournament, the duo not dropping a single set. Both players mentioned looking forward to playing together as teammates here at Drake and the possibility of being paired up again for doubles matches.
When it comes to setting up doubles pairings and a starting six, Kozlowski still has plenty of time to make decisions. His strategy, however, is not to get too locked into any one philosophy or lineup, and for good reason.
“When you look at our team we’ve got a very deep team, a very competitive team that each player will be fighting for a starting position,” Kozlowski said. “That’s going to really help us be successful. … If anything happens and we suffer an injury or an illness we’ll definitely be confident in the guys that we can pull in and sub in to play.”